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Abbey Lincoln And Kendra Shank On JazzSet

JazzSet remembers the late Abbey Lincoln with a lot of love and some good stories from host Dee Dee Bridgewater. Lincoln's concert comes from the 2000 Detroit International Jazz Festival. Kendra Shank's concert was recorded at the Iridium in Manhattan in 2002.

I was devastated when I learned of Abbey Lincoln's passing on August 14. However, I choose to celebrate Abbey and all that she meant to me. Abbey and I were friends -- not close, but friends all the same. She was a woman whom I admired, and for whom I have always had a great deal of respect.

In the early '70s, I replaced Abbey with Max Roach (after their divorce) in concerts of the We Insist! repertoire. She and I were also involved in a photo spread for Essence magazine, with our photos opposite each other, provoking many readers to remark on our resemblance at the time. Abbey agreed that I looked like I could be her daughter.

Then, in the late '70s, when we both had moved from New York City to Los Angeles, I went to see Abbey in her one-woman show. We truly connected. On two occasions we dressed up in our furs and glam rags, rented a limousine, and were driven to The Lighthouse, Long Beach's jazz club, to listen to Max [Roach] and my ex, Cecil Bridgewater, a longtime member of the Max Roach Quartet. Each time we reserved the front center table with champagne for the entire evening, and showed up for the second set. And each time, when we entered the club, Max would drop his drumsticks in the middle of a song, and -- slack-jawed -- introduce Abbey and me as two of the most beautiful black women in the world. We soaked up the applause and the unnerving of Max and Cecil. Ah, those were great moments, which make me laugh to this day.

Fast-forward to the early '90s, when Abbey and I did a wonderful interview in New York City for France's Jazz magazine. We were interviewed separately, then photographed together for the cover. I sent a copy of the photo to Abbey for framing. I don't know if she ever did, but I have my framed copy in my home office. That was one of the most memorable moments in my career and life. Abbey and I could not have been more opposite, she remarked, saying I was the positive and she the negative in terms of our views on music and life, although she agreed that my feminine independence resembled hers.

In 2006, I asked Abbey to be a part of my Red Earth: A Malian Journey CD project. The idea was to do a duet on one of Abbey's original compositions. However, in the end, Abbey decided not to be involved. She was adamant about the fact that our ancestors, brought to America as slaves, were sold into slavery by fellow Africans, and she used this as her reasoning for not collaborating with me. She did want us to do a project together; however, she became too ill for that project to be realized.

Abbey was fiercely independent, outspoken, angry and bitter. She was also playful, and we had many long phone conversations discussing the pros and cons of the world we live in. After Betty Carter's death, we made a pledge to always remain in touch -- and we did, until Abbey was placed in hospice care.

Abbey was and will remain a huge influence on me. She was a late bloomer, coming into her own as an artist, poet and songwriter after her 50s. She was my mother, sister and friend, and I carry her torch. Abbey lives!

Copyright 2010 WBGO

Dee Dee Bridgewater
Noted vocalist and stage performer Dee Dee Bridgewater has hosted NPR's JazzSet since October 2001. Each week Bridgewater takes listeners on a one-hour trip to concert halls, clubs, and festivals around the country to experience the vitality of today's best jazz performances. JazzSet is produced by WBGO 88.3 FM/Newark, New Jersey.