The Jazzcat

Archive for October, 2005

Yusef Lateef Performs at the Herbst Theater as part of the San Francisco Jazz Festival

by on Oct.31, 2005, under News

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The one, the only, the great Yusef Lateef, proclamator of Autophysiopsychic

music (mental, physical spiritual music), has been a master and a genius of

jazz music for many, many decades. Tonight, we are celebrating 85 years of his

life and his music here at the Herbst Theater in San Francisco for another exciting

performance of the San Francisco Jazz Festival.

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Orrin Keepnews, the long time producer and owner of Riverside records, has known and worked with Yusef since

the early 50’s and 60’s. He stands in place of Mr. Randall Klein tonight as he

welcomes the audience and gives many praises to his great and wonderful friend.

He says that Yusef is the only one he knows in this business that is older than

he!

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As I am sitting and listening to Orrin, a wonderful thing

happened. There was a gentleman who was to be seated next to me for the

performance. As he was escorted to his seat, I overheard him say that he had

just had dinner with Yusef backstage for Yusef’s birthday and that his name was

Prince. Now, I am not talking about the leader of the New Power Generation, but

Prince La Sha, the extraordinary tenor, flute, barritone and multi-instrumental

wonder of jazz music. I introduced myself and we ended up hanging out until

3am, looking at pictures of him and Sonny, Trane, Woody, McCoy, Elvin, Ron

Carter as well as listening to music that he composed featuring these cats,

Herbie and many others. I will tell you that story another time but, it was a

fantastic encounter.

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Yusef produces such serene sounds! Healing sounds. The

wonders of the East are upon us and his oboe enchants and speaks in the

silence. Adam Rudolph has an arsenal of percussive instruments on stage ready

for any encounter including those of the third kind.

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Joseph Bowie blows wind through the mouthpiece of his

trombone ever so slightly. A soft calming breeze barely audible assisted by

silence and the exchange of resonating gongs, dissonant angular strikes from Sylvie

Courvoisier on piano and Yusef switching from oboe to tenor to flute to bamboo

flute. This is mental music that paints abstract pictures all through your mind

while stretching each instrument way beyond its intended boundaries.

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It’s like dreaming in a rapid eye movement maze, walking with

caution on clouds of darkness, floating, guided only by the sounds of silent

blows, footsteps of percussion and ghostly shrieks of imaginary goblin like

sounds. It’s seems a bit spooky, but there is no fear. You walk with confidence

on the premonition of a path that already has your name on its destination. You

listen to the faint touches, taps and blows that suggest an endless array of

infinite potential in an enchanted forest of sound where all things are possible.

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Strings of the piano plucked, muted and taped down sound

like spiders running with tap shoes on all eight legs. There are wooden flutes,

African chants, improvisation of didgeridoo sounds and a constant source of

evenness in the silence which acts as a conduit for a plethora of cacophonic

separation. Yusef rocks back and forth as if to be channeling this energy.

Breaking down the molecules of life, extracting the poison and restructuring

the deoxyribonucleic acid to form a perfect strand of pure love.

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If you are lost in the maze of your mind there are constant

clues to put you back on the intended path. The music resembles life in the

same sense that we may not know where we are going until we experience déjà vu. There are triumphs, pitfalls,

obstacles, encumbrances, encroachments, serenity, confusion, enlightenment, mayhem,

and cliff hangers that can only be understood when tapped into a super hypnotic

state of intellectual altered worlds.

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Yusef reads his poetry with the music. He speaks of leaves

that wave at you and protoplasmic flowers plucked and floating towards death.

What was their mission? These are thoughts about life that extend way beyond

the box of knowing and into the search for that which we do not know that we do

not know. A realm that exist in a galaxy floating with answers to questions not

even comprehensible enough to fathom. These are more than just poems, they are

prayers and he is praying for us. He is praying for the life of humanity. When

the leaves blow in the wind and wave to you that is life saying hello, did you

overlook the pleasantry? Is the flower’s purpose to be pulled from the life of precious

mother earth and put in a vase just to please us? What is their purpose?

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Wisdom is sought from the ancient mystical tribal spirit of

the music. Yusef is summoning the spirit for these answers and he weeps in the

process. He is seeing life from another plane and he feels the pain from all of

our useless self destruction.

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I was in a deep state of relaxation with my eyes closed and

I felt the music plunge into my soul and begin to lift my spirit with its

healing powers. I should have let it take me, but instead, I opened my eyes and

dropped back into my seat. We are all afraid of the unknown. Perhaps there was

a message that was waiting for me that I missed.

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On stage these four minds and four bodies tap into something

that resembles prayer, healing and goodness. These prayers are to eradicate

evil and promote love, life and waves of light. I hope that there are answers

out there because the music, poetry and prayers are for us!

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LeRoy Downs 

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Billie Holiday blowin'

by on Oct.30, 2005, under Uncategorized

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Dee Dee Bridgewater at Yoshis with "J'ai Deux Amours"

by on Oct.30, 2005, under News

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Yoshis is such a beautiful environment to see and hear

music. I had dinner in the restaurant prior to the performance and I find that

having dinner and then going to enjoy the show is the best way to experience a

wonderful evening of music.

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All of today’s and yesterday's legends grace the walls of

Yoshis. Illuminated on the wall is one of the many large, gorgeous black and white

photographs taken from performances here at Yoshis. The one in the spotlight tonight is of Dee Dee

Bridgewater. I ran into her drummer at the Waterfront hotel across the way the

day before. His name is Minino Garay and he is from Paris, which reminds me of the importance of

this project that blends French song with American music and vice versa. What

is so important, you say? Well, think in terms of humans, music and cultures all

relating together. The jazz scene is very different here than it is in Europe. When American musicians and artists travel

abroad and play, their craft is embraced and the arrival of their performance

is awaited. Americans don’t always show the same enthusiasm, probably due to

lack of exposure of the European artists on this continent.

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Dee Dee Bridgewater has two loves: America

and Paris. Both

have made a significant contribution to the history of music, which is why, I would

imagine, that Dee Dee has released the new CD “J’ai Deux Amours”, in both French and English; by players from both countries–to unify the music, the

musicians, the composers, the lyricist and the people who made the music rise

to fame. On accordion is Marc Berthoumieux , Louis Winsberg on lead guitar, Ira

Coleman on bass and Minino Garay on drums and percussion.

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Here in America,

we are not usually accustomed to hearing the sound or the use of the accordion in

jazz music. She said, “You all are a brave bunch, because what you are about to be

inundated with is a lot of French.” The accordion replaced the piano in the

band, adding to a distinct blend that smells, sounds and tastes like it's roasted to

perfection!

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Dee Dee is so

delightful and full of spirit, music and love, you can’t help but smile

in her presence. The musicians have come up with

the musical ideas and arrangement of the tunes which are quite

familiar, but

whose true historical origins were about to be revealed!

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The first piece and title of the album, “J’ai Deux Amours”, was

written for Josephine Baker. Did you know that “I Wish You Love” was originally

written in French? “Beyond the Sea” was made popular by Bobby Darin, but the

French version was the original. All of these facts and many more little delectable

treats were shared by Dee Dee to help us realize how close the two worlds really are!

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Dee Dee, like most of the jazz community and those who love

jazz in general, received the news that our great and beloved Shirley Horn had just

passed. She was obviously deeply affected by the loss, but the brilliance and

personality of her own presence on stage shined through like a prism!

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Dee Dee looked like a sweet, juicy Georgia

peach in a flawless dress

that she said had a bead or two that was missing. She was communicating

with

all of the women in the audience about dress experiences when she said,

“This is the last dress that I am going to buy because I am tired of

the beads

falling off.” All of the men know that this isn’t a true statement

because she

looks so good in them!

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One of my favorite albums is “After Hours” by Nina Simone, but

she does a piece called, “Ne Me Quitte Pas”,

(“If You Go Away”) from her album “I

Put a Spell on You” that truly displays a woman’s pain. This is such a

heartfelt and very emotional tune and Nina sings it straight from the

core. Dee Dee

pays tribute to her and performs it like a theatrical play. As a matter

of

fact, every time I see Dee Dee perform, I am not just watching a jazz

singer,

but a musical performance artist. She has a very powerful stage

presence that

you don’t get to experience with many other singers. Watching her

perform is like

being transformed into a French playhouse. Her sensual and charming

personality

has always come across as fun and playful. She makes you feel

comfortable and longing

to know her more intimately.

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On stage she whips out this gorgeous Japanese fan, which is

perfectly functional for the room temperature and functionally perfect for

the performance. Her attitude, posture and sound make her a star on an unparalleled

stage. The accordion player and Dee Dee’s sleek, sensual saunter make love in

such a wonderful manner on “My Man”. Of course, a tune made popular by Billie

Holiday who Dee Dee had the honor of playing for two years in a theatrical

show called, “Lady Day”. Her impression is on hit!

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“If You Love Me, Really Love Me”, done in English and

French, like most of the tunes in her set, was a tribute to Shirley. It was

done as a duet with guitar and vocals, a serenade of love, honor, respect and

appreciation. One phrase in the song sounded just like Shirley would sing it. It

gave me the sense of an everlasting universal presence of the spirit of Shirley

Horn.

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On the CD, Dee Dee selected French songs that are identified

by the melodies, but at the same time, give praise to the American

artist who made them popular. Claude Nougaro was

one composer who always put French lyrics to jazz standards to help promote

and keep jazz alive abroad.

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Dee Dee brings the funk and hip-hop, be-boy phrasing to the

piece “Girl Talk”. She opens the floor for her drummer Minino, who gets down and

uses the audience’s syncopated clap as a part of his drum and percussive

display. He and Dee Dee have fun playing on stage and making each other laugh. This

brings a smile and warmth to everyone in the crowd. She closes by telling us to

“Stay in the Light”. With a torch that shines as bright as she does, there will

always be!

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LeRoy Downs

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UCLA LIVE presents Omar Sosa and Will Power at Royce Hall

by on Oct.29, 2005, under News

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Solo reverberating echoes of bass spreads a blanket wave of

sound over the audience at Royce Hall. One by one, the musicians come on stage

and delicately blend in their instruments until they are one. Omar Sosa enters

stage left with a cranberry colored candle that he places on his piano to add

to the ambiance that he is about to musically immerse into. Will Power, the

hip-hop jazz rhyme sayer, grabs the mic and starts straight free stylin’. Now

for those of you who are not privy to the dynamics of “free styling” let me

explain. Free styling involves an artist mentally linking up with a bed of high

energy groove that is layed down, jumping in like a double-ducher and using his

environment as the vehicle for his spoken poetry. You have be mentally ten

steps ahead in order to logistically rap about the person in the front row with

the red shirt and then proceed to choose any and all subjects and subject

matter pertinent to the situation around you and do it all in whatever time

signature that the groove is in.

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Will exercises the “Power” to blend hip-hop, be-bop and

Latin rhythms into an eclectic electrifying fusion of urbanized jazz music. No

matter whose gig it is, whoever controls the mic verbally is the dominating

force that drives the ship. Will feeds off of the mystic essence of the music

as he is hangs behind the band dancing freely on stage when he is not trying to

rock the crowd with his rhymes.

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The message is universal love; a mixture of black, white,

red, green and all the global colors of the world coming together and making

peace not war. Will tells child hood stories that describe who he is and where

he came from, political structures, the essence of jazz, music, hip-hop,

culture and then he checks in with you to see “How you feelin’”

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We are one, so let’s have fun, under the sun, on/this/earth

one race one birth. Jazz is playin’, hip-hop sayin’, chillin’ in the house

U-C-L-Ain’. People in their chairs and their movin’ their heads, forget about

the ones who say jazz is dead. Tonight I’m writin’, it’s excitin’, movin’ to

the sounds Omar’s delightin’! Cuban, “Power”, Funk in time, this is my attempt

to bust a rhyme. Is it weak, I must say yes but, these are the words that I

manifest (Sorry 🙂)

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Forgive me, I got a little carried away, but urban sounds

are intoxicating. They grab you with the Captain Hook and then you are a

prisoner of the loop. Rap, spoken word, hip-hop or what ever word you use to

describe this music is intriguing and the forms of expression used can range

from brilliant to down right despicable. The words are manifested in such a way

as to have you leave with that message branded in your cortex.

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Chants, the sounds of children and other worldly sounds are

used to evoke the emotions of worlds far and near. As we imagine other parts of

the world, their struggles, their happiness, their wars, their hunger. We fuse

that together with our own humanity and realize that we are one people, one

life, one color, one word and we have to love and take care of our brothers and

sisters.

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Omar creates a fantastic wall of sound that acts as the

canvas that the colors are splashed, splattered and stroked on. The tones range

from cool to bright with rich chunky burst of Latin melodic expression coupled

with jazzy funk rap fusion.

 

Everyone at Royce seemed to have a great time. Let’s hope

the message is utilized!

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LeRoy Downs

 

 

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Abbey Lincoln Kicks off the San Francisco Jazz Festival at the Herbst Theater

by on Oct.27, 2005, under News


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This is the first in that series of performances here at the

San Francisco Jazz Festival, better known as SF Jazz. Victoria Shelton Gilbert,

who is the Associate Director or Public Relations, has provided me with the

most perfect seat here at the Herbst Theater for the reigning queen of jazz

vocal prowess, Miss Abbey Lincoln.

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I can’t think of any other singer that I would rather see

open up this wonderful serious of music. Abbey Lincoln holds a near and dear

place in my heart. It’s not because I know her personally, but it is because

her sound and her style have connected with my soul. Cutting through the melody

and beauty of the music and finding that raw naked vulnerability and making

that her soap box for expression.

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Warming and gracing the stage as the face of SF Jazz is Mr.

Randall Klein. Randall always welcomes the crowd with a warm demeanor and a

plethora of useful educational and artistic information. A portion of the

proceeds from this opening performance at the festival will be donated to the

victims of Hurricane Katrina.

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Abbey’s trio opened the show with a bright up tempo piece.

On piano, Otmaro Ruiz, on bass, Michael Bowie and Jaz Sawyer is the drummer for

the evening. There is a suede chair with gold studs that is sitting there at

center stage and in just a few moments, Abbey will grace us with her presence.

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As much as I adore her arsenal of music, I have only seen

her perform one other time in Los

Angeles at The Jazz Bakery a few years ago. Now, I am

always the cat who, after the performance, goes backstage and introduces

myself, but I realize that out of all of the musicians and singers that I know,

I was not ready to meet Abbey. This fear is probably due to the fact that I am

one of her biggest fans and I don’t know if any words would have come out of my

mouth when meeting her.

 

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After the first number, Abbey slowly saunters on the stage

up the microphone and sings, “Down Here Below”. Instantly, I was under her

controlling emotional spell. She had this ominous black hat that she took off

in such a way that showed sincerity and appreciation for her audience.

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When not out front at the microphone, she becomes her own

instrument as she vamps and vocalizes with her musicians. She is like a grand

mother that you love to death, but she will not hesitate to whop your ass if

you get out of line. Ask her musicians. Thorough out the evening, Otmaro,

Michael and Jaz were getting verbal spankings for not playing with the power

and passion that Abbey wanted to hear. I guess after playing with cats like

Max, Julian Priester, Eric Dolphy, Coleman Hawkins, Mal Waldron, Booker Little,

Walter Benton, Art Davis, Ron Carter, Paul Chambers, Buddy Collette, Kenny

Dorham, Art Farmer, Al Foster, Curtis Fuller, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Charlie

Haden, Jimmy Heath, Billy Higgins, JJ Johnson, Philly Joe Jones, Clifford

Jordan, Wynton Kelly, Sam Jones, Steve Lacy, Jackie McLean, Frank Morgan,

Jerome Richardson, Sonny Rollins, Archie Shepp, Sahib Shihab, Stanley

Turrentine, Clark Terry, Reggie Workman, Cedar Walton, Gerald Wilson, I could

continue if you wish. I would imagine that her history speaks for itself when

it comes to knowing the music and what she either wants or does not want to

hear. Now don’t get me wrong, she has a nice band, they just don’t have the years

of experience and wisdom that all of the aforementioned posses. Nor should

they, these are the musicians of today and they can get down, it’s just that

Abbey is super special and she does not live, sing or exist inside the lines.

She just needs the space, the freedom and the stones to be there as she walks

upon the water.

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Abbey asks the house to turn up the light so she can see her

audience. I am sure that whoever was working the lights that evening has never

had a request directed at them from center stage right in the middle of a song,

so they probably weren’t sure just what to do.  Abbey kicks back in the chair on stage for her

like the Herbst Theater is her living room, and it is. She let’s her trio play

and comes back to the mic to finish off the tune. “Can you turn the lights up

please, there are people out there”. She makes several request for the house

lights to rise and will not sing until they are. Abbey is a woman that does get

her way. She just wants the stage to be like home when she sings. “The Music is

the Magic of a Secret World”, Abbey’s world.

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Abbey runs a clinic onstage as she makes sure that her

musicians are playing what she wants to hear. These are her children and not

her peers. She loves them and they love her back, but in her own words,

“Sometimes the stage is not always easy”. And I don’t know if you ever went to go get the

switch off of the tree for your grandmother when you got in trouble as a child,

but if you did, you can understand the relation between her and her musicians

that evening.

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“What you gonna Do, What you gonna do” are a few of the

lyrics written by Abbey and Nina Simone for the tune “Blues for Mama”. “I miss Nina, I

miss Miriam”. “What you gonna do” She is not pleased with what she is hearing

from the band and she tells them to “Lay Out”. She proceeds to sing acapella and

the audience starts to clap in unison. They think that since the band got

slapped on the wrist, they can provide the rhythm. They were wrong.

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At intermission I heard all kinds of remarks regarding the

performance. I even had a few people come up to me and ask me what I thought. It

seems that many do not know what to think. Should they laugh, should they

smile, should they feel for the musicians, are the upset because of the

constant scolding that Abbey unleashed on her musicians, am I here to be

entertained or should I feel honored to be in the presence of art? Questions,

questions, questions! Well if anyone’s performance is going to raise any

questions it is going to be one from Abbey Lincoln, but you probably knew that before

you came. I am sure that this is part of the fear that I have when it comes to

loving Abbey and her music. You have to love her and her music, you can’t just

love the music without loving her!

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When I was much younger I saw Nina Simone at the Playboy Jazz

Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. If you have ever been to Playboy then you know

that eating good food, basking in the sun, hangin’ with your homies, scoping

out booties with you binoculars and being in the “place to be,” pretty much

takes precedence over whoever is performing on stage. Nina was used to

respectful audiences in Europe and around the

world. She said “You treat me like a dog” and proceeded to sing a song where

the lyrics were “I’m just like a dog, to THEM!” At the time, I thought she was

trippin’, but now I understand her. I never got a chance to see the real Nina

and I am saddened by that.

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I felt that the continuity of Abbey’s first set was choppy do

to the admonishment of her players, but I look at Abbey through a different set

eyes. I know her music and I look past the music to the life. Here is a woman

who has never been a follower and always a fighter for the truth in life, love,

politics and music. Do you realize how lonely the world can be when you speak

the truth?  

“I have been on the stage for

75 years and it is not always easy. Most of the musicians that were around when

I came to the stage are gone. Miles, Duke, Charlie Parker (pause) and I’m on my

way out too!”

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You need to understand

the woman to understand the struggle,

the journey, the politics, the love and loss of love, the stories, what

being a

strong BLACK woman represents socially and personally and how speaking

you mind

separates and isolates. Abbey must and will have it her way or no way

at all.

She is uncompromising in the freedom of her artistic approach, attitude,

and

ever present passion for self expression. A “Bird Alone”. She wrote

that one while in Japan thinking about Miles Davis in the sky like a

bird.

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I thought that after

the intermission and some sort of

locker room pep talk, that the second set would be more forgiving. They

started

with “The Music is the Magic”, a tune that they did the first set. She

probably

was not happy with the outcome and decided to “Do It Again” as Shirley

would

say. Speaking of our beloved Shirley, RIP, I have been hearing some

unfounded rumors that Abbey has not been doing well. Her words to the

audience, forgotten

lyrics, and reminiscent thoughts of the great ones before us even made

me

ponder mortality. I hope all this in not true and just a figment.

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Anyway, Abbey is one of the great ones and history tells us

so. This was a concert to remember for many reasons but the best one is the one

you will have now and will have in the future when you say, “I saw Abbey

Lincoln and “She was as Tender as a Rose”.

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LeRoy Downs

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