It’s Magic: songs by ABBEY LINCOLN
Accompaniment on An Occasional Man, Just for Me and Music, Maestro, Please: Kenny Dorham (tp) Curtis Fuller (tb) Benny Golson (ts) Jerome Richardson (fl, brs) Wynton Kelly (p) Paul Chambers (b) Philly Joe Jones (drs) arrangements by Benny Golson
On I Am in Love and Love: Art Farmer replaces Dorham; Sahib Shihab replaces Richardson; Sam Jones replaces Chambers. Other personnel the same. Arrangements by Golson.
On Ain’t Nobody’s Business and Exactly Like You, accompaniment is by Dorham, Golson, Kelly, Chambers, Jones.
On It’s Magic, Out of the Past and Little Niles: Farmer replaces Dorham; Jones replaces Chambers.
New York; August, 1958
1. I Am in Love (2'51") (Cole Porter)
2. It's Magic (3'58") (Cahn - Styne)
3. Just for Me (3'09) (Jimmy Komack)
4. An Occasional Man (3'18") (Blane – Martin)
5. Ain't Nobody's Business (4'23") (traditional)
1. Out of the Past (4'41") (Hendricks – Golson)
2. Music, Maestro, Please (3'14") (Magidson – Wrubel)
3. Exactly Like You (2'48") (Fiedlds – McHugh)
4. Love (2'38") (Blane – Martin)
5. Little Niles (4'48") (Hendricks – Weston)
The “magic” in evidence on this LP is probably not at all supernatural. It is, rather, the sort of magic spell that can be cast over an audience at times by an artist of rare warmth, tasted and talent. ABBEY LINCOLN (a young lady who has the singular good fortune not only to sound beautiful but to look beautiful, too) is such an artist. And in this album we think you’ll find that she succeeds in achieving some highly magical results.
As with most magic potions, there are several ingredients at work here. While it is quite true that the most vital elements is the warm and wonderful voice of Abbey, and her particular way with a song about love, she is also assisted to a considerable extent by some superior accompanying musicians, some rich Benny Golson arrangements, and a varied repertoire that includes some intriguing surprises.
Abbey’s Riverside debut was on an album (RLP 12-251) that concentrated largely on moody tempos, and that teamed her with a quintet made up of some of the country’s top ‘blowing’ jazzmen. Here, although she is again surrounded by first-rank jazz talent (including three who were on that first LP), the emphasis is more specifically and directly on Abbey herself. She is working with a variety of tempos, with two groups of different size and sound, with varied approaches to songs of different types, so that the album adds up to something of a panoramic view of what this exciting young singer has to offer…
In discussing the jazz style of Abbey Lincoln, I feel compelled to do battle with what I consider a very false and very pervasive cliché – the one that seeks to limit the category of “jazz singer,” by definition, to those who scat, or who “phrase like a horn.” Singers, it seems to me, can arbitrarily be divided into two major categories: those primarily concerned with sound, and those whose emphasis is on the words. This is admitted a very arbitrary division: probably n good singer has ever belonged entirely to one category or the other; it is actually a matter of the individual degree of emphasis. However – and this is where the previously-noted cliché enters the scene – there is a widespread tendency to credit as jazz singers only those who are extremely preoccupied with sound: the phrase-benders and stylized creators of non-dictionary syllables. Abbey’s emphasis is in the other direction. Tonal qualities and phrasing and a remarkably swinging beat are all important parts of her style, but she does not choose to consider these as the total picture. The thesis that it is a horn’s function to put across its message by pure sound alone, but that a voice can also make effective use of the “story” content of the lyrics, is not really a very strange or difficult concept. It may make for a kind of vocal jazz that is less overt, more subtle. But if you accept as a partial working definition of jazz that it is a creative music and (within certain self-imposed limits) a free music, it should be clear that the rich and meaningful voice of Abbey Lincoln, combining with the supporting sounds of these jazz musicians to produce something free and creative, is thoroughly and deeply a part of jazz.
Five of the selections here follow the pattern used in Abbey’s first Riverside LP: trumpet, tenor and rhythm working with and behind her spontaneously and in light “head” arrangements. The other five, on which trombone, baritone and flute are added, were scored for Abbey by Benny Golson, one of the most original and highly regarded young composer-arrangers in jazz today, who also performs most effectively on tenor sax throughout the album. Golson has provided a version of Cole Porter’s I Am in Love that can only be described as both relaxed and surging; a driving arrangement of Ralph Blane and Hugh Martin’s Love and a sultry treatment of the same team’s neglected An Occasional Man; and offbeat scoring of a new novelty tune, Just for Me; and a beautiful revitalizing of the old ballad, Music, Maestro, Please.
Benny also had a major hand in one of the other numbers, Out of the Past being a Golson composition (introduced in instrumental form on his Riverside album: RLP 12-256) to which Jon Hendricks has very recently added effective lyrics. Abbey brought the number to the recording session without even warning Benny; the tempo change used here was her idea, while the ‘line’ played behind her by Golson and Art Farmer was devised on the spot by Benny. Little Niles also has Hendricks lyrics, which carry out the original intention of pianist Randy Weston, the composer, whose instrumental version (introduced by him on Riverside 12-214) was dedicated to his young son. Here, too, the horn background, which beautifully supports the modern-lullaby mood Abbey is building, was extemporaneous. Exactly Like You and Ain’t Nobody’s Business (the latter a ‘tough’ blues constructed of verses of ancient vintage) are deliberately loose swingers; the sinuous It’s Magic is also sung with improvised background.
ABBEY LINCOLN, born in Chicago, raised in Michigan and now in her mid-twenties, was well on her way to a successful supper club singing career when she rather abruptly decided that what she really wanted was not to sound svelte in plush-lined bistros, but to work with the kind of jazz musicians she had long known and admired. Her first Riverside album was the first step in this direction; it has been followed by successful engagements at jazz clubs in New York, Detroit, Los Angeles and elsewhere. Her rhythm section here includes Wynton Kelly, her (and our) idea of a perfect pianist for a jazz vocalist, best known for his work with Dizzy Gillespie’s big band and behind Dinah Washington; either of two talented young bassists, Paul Chambers or Sam Jones; and the brilliant Philly Joe Jones, demonstrating a subtlety on drums that may surprise those who know him primarily as an explosive swinger. The horns most prominently include Benny Golson, whose various contribution to the album have already been noted, and either Art Farmer or Kenny Dorham, both extremely expressive and inventive trumpet men of deservedly large reputation – with Kenny doing particularly noteworthy work on Ain’t Nobody’s Business.
Abbey’s first Riverside album was –
ABBEY LINCOLN with the Riverside Jazz Stars: Sonny Rollins, Kenny Dorham, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers, Max Roach (RLP 12-251: also available in Stereo on RLP 1107)
Her accompanists can also be heard on a number of other outstanding Riverside LPs, among them –
The Modern Touch; BENNY GOLSON Sextet; with J. J. Johnson, Kenny Dorham, Max Roach, Wynton Kelly, Paul Chambers (RLP 12-256)
Alabama Concerto: featuring ‘CANNONBALL’ ADDERLEY and ART FARMER (RLP 12-276)
This Is the Moment: KENNY DORHAM Sings and Plays; with Curtis Fuller (RLP 12-275)
WYNTON KELLY, with Kenny Burrell, Paul Chambers, Philly Joe Jones (RLP 12-254)
A HIGH FIDELITY Recording – Riverside-Reeves SPECTRONIC High Fidelity Engineering
(Audio Compensation: RIAA Curve)
Produced, and notes written by ORRIN KEEPNEWS
Cover photograph: CHARLES STEWART; cover designed by PAUL BACON
Engineer: JACK HIGGINS (Reeves Sound Studios)
RIVERSIDE RECORDS are released by BILL GRAUER PRODUCTIONS, Inc.
553 West 51st Street New York 19, N.Y.