Vocalists who interpret the work of a singer and composer as distinctive as Abbey Lincoln face a daunting challenge, sounding like a mere clone at best, a poor mimic at worst. Christine Correa, however, accomplishes the task brilliantly on her second Lincoln tribute with pianist Ran Blake, The Road Keeps Winding.
The record takes its name from the lyrics to “Straight Ahead,” its opener and the title track to one of Lincoln’s most celebrated albums. Correa’s emotive voice glides with vibrant tension over Blake’s passionate, bluesy lines. Indeed, a certain dramatic sense permeates the entire disc as Correa and Blake, longtime collaborators, reconstruct these superlative songs in sublime accord with each other and with a captivating affinity to the material.
Correa channels a primal spirituality with her unaccompanied incantation on “The River,” especially when she underscores her chanting with shakers. Her expressive, lilting recitation perfectly reflects the piece’s haunting symbolism.
Meanwhile, Blake performs two solo takes of “Throw It Away.” The first is melancholic and introspective, with indigo hues. The second is more expansive and bright but no less evocative. On both versions, Blake’s improvisation is as elegantly engrossing as Lincoln’s reading of it on her 1994 album A Turtle’s Dream.
One of the best examples of Correa and Blake’s seamless camaraderie is a contemplative reading of “Driva Man” from drummer Max Roach’s iconic 1960 recording We Insist! Freedom Now Suite. The pair deliver all the anger and pain of the original, as Blake’s atonal bursts enhance Correa’s electrifying and poetic intonations. The singer’s ethereal vocalese and the pianist’s pensive phrases usher in the powerful conclusion.
With this superb recording, musical intimates Correa and Blake not only pay homage to Lincoln’s outstanding legacy, but also offer a compelling dissertation on what her unique artistry means to them personally. — Hrayr Attarian