Share this article

print logo

Virginia Schenck's tribute to Abbey Lincoln isn't much


Virginia Schenck, "Aminata Moseka: An Abbey Lincoln Tribute" (Airborne Ecstasy)

Abbey Lincoln was unquestionably a great jazz figure. She was not, though, a great jazz singer. But then neither -- strictly as a beautiful producer of vocal sound -- was Billie Holiday. In both cases, their voices often produced thin, unbeautiful sounds that were close to squawks. The difference was that Holiday's drama and musical art made her sublime, even when she was singing regrettable junk ("What a Little Moonlight Can Do.")

Abbey Lincoln was never sublime or even close. What she had galore was presence. She was the epitome, in life, of a jazz diva. Her own songs were pitilessly didactic while saying nothing that interesting. But the imperial way she carried herself in the world of jazz commanded your attention even when you didn't really enjoy the music she made.

Virginia Schenck -- an Atlanta-based singer who also calls herself VA sometimes -- is technically a better singer than Abbey Lincoln ever was, which is to say that the sounds that emanate from her throat are more beautiful and controlled than the sounds produced by Abbey Lincoln.

But I'm sorry here, without Abbey Lincoln's imperial presence -- which was always in abundant evidence even on record -- this "tribute" to her isn't much more than an academic gesture that doesn't really succeed. I'm sure Schenck's admiration for Abbey Lincoln is vast and genuine but except for one piece, it doesn't bring these songs to new life. The exception is "River" in which Schenck indulges in some free jazz improvisation, which has some of her model's crucial arrogance.

2 1/2 stars (out of four)

There are no comments - be the first to comment