Abbey's work from the 60s and on is probably better known, but this is a lovely early side notable for the stellar cast of musicians backing her, billed here as the Riverside Jazz Stars. I never heard Rollins sound so lyrical! At this point in her career the Billie Holiday comparisons are inevitable — but that's the finest kind of recommendation in my book.
Abbey's first early peak [is] a wonderful and confident set with a stunning ensemble... Lincoln opens with Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Strong Man" — she was one of the performers who regularly recorded his songs prior to his own debut as a recording artist in the early '60s... The gorgeous and dramatic "Tender as a Rose" is presented acapella. Throughout, Lincoln's singing easily mingles jazz, blues and folk influences and phrasings. This strong album pointed the way to her ABBEY IS BLUE, her essential work recorded two years later.
AMG (Scott Yawno) sez:
[On] Abbey Lincoln's second recording and first for Riverside, [she] is accompanied by quite an all-star roster... and, even this early, she was already a major jazz singer with a style of her own. Lincoln was careful from this point on to only interpret lyrics that she believed in. Her repertoire has a few superior standards (including several songs such as "I Must Have That Man!" and "Don't Explain" that are closely associated with Billie Holiday) plus Oscar Brown, Jr.'s "Strong Man" and Phil Moore's "Tender as a Rose"; she takes the latter unaccompanied. "Don't Explain" is slightly unusual in that Paul Chambers is absent and Wynton Kelly makes an extremely rare appearance on bass.
Abbey Lincoln vocals; Kenny Dorham trumpet; Sonny Rollins tenor saxophone; Wynton Kelly piano; Max Roach drums.