Painted Lady

Abbey Lincoln / Archie Shepp

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Painted Lady Review

by Ken Dryden

Abbey Lincoln was in her late fifties at the time of this 1987 session in Paris, but she was showing little wear on her voice, aside for a slightly more pronounced vibrato. Joining her for this session is Archie Shepp on soprano and tenor saxophones, trumpeter Roy Burrowes, pianist Hilton Ruiz, bassist Jack Gregg, and drummer Freddie Waits. The sparse liner notes give no background as to how this session or choice of musicians came about, and at times there is such an informal air that one would think that this was a run-through prior to a record date or concert. The extended workout of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" lives up to its title, with Lincoln, Shepp (on soprano sax), Burrowes (on muted trumpet), and Ruiz shining in their respective solos. The vocalist interprets several several of her originals, though she comments to the musicians midway through "Golden Lady" that she thinks the tempo may be a bit too slow, while she also seems to stumble at one point. But she shines in her defiant "Throw It Away." Ruiz sets up Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" with a lush solo, and while this isn't the type of material one associates with Lincoln, she delivers a stunning, original interpretation. The release could have been improved in several ways. At times, the sound was overmodulated by the original session engineer, unnecessarily distorting Lincoln's voice and Shepp's saxes at times, while occasionally there is a bit too much reverb used on the leader's vocals. It's also puzzling not to see any composer/lyricist credits listed in the package or on the disc itself.

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