CI Department: Portrait of Abbey Lincoln | Nothing But the Truth

NEC: Jordan Hall | Directions

290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA
United States

Under the guidance of Ran Blake, Eden MacAdam-Somer, and special guest Christine Correa, CI students take a deep dive into the life and work of singer, composer, activist, and actress Abbey Lincoln, from her collaborations with Max Roach and their groundbreaking album We Insist!, and her work with composer R B Lynch, through her own introspective songs on life, love, spirit, and humanity.

Performers include guest artist Christine Correa, NEC faculty Ken Schaphorst, Dominique Eade, and Nasheet Waits, and projects led by CI students Solomon Caldwell, Sarah Matsushima, Yoona Kim, Catherine Byrne, Avi Randall, Francesca Ter-Berg, Emily Mitchell, Caleb Schmale, and many more.

This concert will be viewable in person only. A digital broadcast of the concert will air on March 15.


Abbey Lincoln

Strongly influenced by jazz icons Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, both of whom she met early in her career, Abbey Lincoln's distinctive vocal style, thought-provoking writing, and spirited personality secured her a place among the jazz luminaries. Born in Chicago and raised in rural Michigan, Lincoln began performing while still in high school. In 1951, she moved to the West Coast, working under various names (Gaby Lee, Anna Marie, Gaby Wooldridge) before settling on Abbey Lincoln. She recorded her first album with jazz great Benny Carter in 1956 and appeared in the 1957 film, The Girl Can't Help It. Lincoln then recorded a series of albums for the Riverside label with drummer Max Roach, who had introduced her to the label's owner. Lincoln's collaborations with Roach (to whom she was married from 1962-70) lasted more than a decade, and included the seminal recording, We Insist! Freedom Now Suite in 1960. This was the beginning of a more social and political activist approach to her music. Over the years, she has worked with some of the biggest names in jazz, including Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, Coleman Hawkins, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Clark Terry, and Stan Getz. In addition to her music, Lincoln also pursued acting, appearing in the films Nothing But A Man and For Love of Ivy and on television series, such as Mission: Impossible and the Flip Wilson Show. She also taught drama at the California State University. She did not record any albums as a leader from 1962-72 but made a grand return to jazz with her 1973 recording, People In Me, her first album of all original material. Lincoln returned to her influences in 1987, recording two albums in tribute to Billie Holiday, and then a series of recordings for Verve throughout the 1990s and 2000s that showcased her writing prowess. Her emotionally honest, mature style was present in every song she sang.

Christine Correa

Vocalist Christine Correa is a native of Bombay, India currently residing in Brooklyn, New York.  After relocating to the U.S. in 1979 to attend the New England Conservatory, she soon became involved in a variety of improvisational contexts.  Christine has performed and recorded with artists such as Ran Blake, Steve Lacy, and John LaPorta and has appeared at numerous festivals and clubs in the U.S., Europe, South America, Africa, the Middle East and India.  Christine has also been featured on projects by composers Frank Carlberg, Steve Grover, Sam Sadigursky, Nicholas Urie, Guillaume Orti, and Laurent Coq.  Christine is currently on the faculty at Columbia University’s Louis Armstrong Jazz Performance Program and has been Director of the Maine Jazz Camp since 1994


This performance will be viewable to in-person audiences only. A digital broadcast of the performance will air on the NEC website on March 15 at 7:30 pm. Check back for link to the digital broadcast.

  1. Abbey Lincoln was a true legend….a great singer, musician, actress, poet and human being.  Her delivery was passionate and expressive and she had a power all her own! Beginning with her association with Max Roach, her style and repertoire changed from a nightclub act featuring selections from the Great American Songbook to performing songs with a social context.  Her later meditations on life and humanity showed you yet another facet to this remarkable artist.  We have been left with a void…….Down Here Below.  
    Christine Correa

    As one reaches the age of seventy plus, the role of the mentor is an inspiring long term memory. There are many that have played the role of a teacher in my life. I’ve been blessed with so many...a handful of the most important ones are George Russell, Mal Waldron, Mary Lou Williams, Martin Williams, and especially Gunther Schuller. Models can range from the very specific to genres such film noir, qualities like introspection, and in this case, musicians you often narrow down my list the biggest roles of influence have been Chris Connor, Billie Holiday, Jeanne Lee, Abbey Lincoln, Mahalia Jackson, Olivier Messiaen, Charles Mingus, Thelonious Monk...Abbey in particular has been of vital importance as an actress, friend, performer, composer, spokesperson. So many of my thoughts are personal memories, such as visiting her hometown and meeting her then classmates.

    Her music is Nothing But the Truth.                                                                    
    – Ran Blake

    As always, this project came together through the efforts of many hands. Congratulations to all of tonight's performers, who really dug in and did some deep listening in shaping their pieces. I would also like to thank NEC's stellar recording and production teams, and to express my sincere gratitude to Anthony Coleman and Lautaro Mantilla for their creativity and support in coaching and production.
    – Eden MacAdam-Somer

  2. Abbey Lincoln | The River

    Christine Correa, voice
    Sahana Narayanan, voice
    Sam Childs, tenor saxophone
    Alex Yoo, drums

    Program note

    I used to live on Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles", she recalls. "It's a really busy freeway and I used to hear all this traffic in the night and in the morning. It sounded just like a river."

    –- Abbey Lincoln, interview with Nat Hentoff (New York, 1983) 


  3. Mal Waldron/Abbey Lincoln/Earl Baker | Straight Ahead

    Sahana Narayanan, Emmy Yihong Guo, voice
    Yukiko Takagi, piano


    Program note

    This is from Abbey's 1961 album Straight Ahead which she released under her name. The lyrics and melody are by the great Mal Waldron. I would like to express my gratitude to Christine Correa, who taught me this song in Fall of 2019 during my undergrad.                                                                                                    
    – Sahana Narayanan

  4. Abbey Lincoln | Throw it Away

    Catherine Byrne, voice, violin


    Program note

    Abbey Lincoln’s recordings of Throw It Away beautifully encompass a range of emotions. Her lyrics intertwine nostalgia, anger, relief, and hope in a powerful way. Exploring this piece as a solo violin and vocal number has been incredibly fun. As I pay tribute to Abbey, I also feel each and every one of us can relate to the complexities of leaving things behind and moving on. As we go through life, remember Abbey’s words that “you can never lose a thing if it belongs to you”.                                                                                                                                              
    – Cate Byrne

  5. Chips Bayen/Abbey Lincoln/Max Roach | In the Red

    Heather Milberger, voice
    Zoe Murphy, trumpet
    Talia Rubenstein, guitar
    Eleanor Pruneau, piano
    Hannah Dunton, double bass
    James Nadien, drums


    Program note

    This piece proved to be quite a force to be reckoned with. We each did our own transcriptions, then came together as a group to combine what we'd heard. We wanted to remain faithful to Abbey's original recording while slightly re-arranging and reorganizing to fit the instrumentation and strengths of the ensemble. The group would like to extend our gratitude to Ran, Eden, and Anthony for their guidance in this process.             
    – Heather Milberger, Zoe Murphy, Talia Rubenstein, Eleanor Pruneau,
    Hannah Dunton, James Nadien

  6. Max Roach/Oscar Brown | Driva Man

    Caleb Schmale, tenor saxophone
    Jake Walters, piano


    Program note

    Tonight, we will be playing a powerful and important composition written by Max Roach and Oscar Brown entitled Driva’ Man. This piece was recorded in 1960 as the first movement of We Insist! (Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite), and it tells an explicit story of slavery. Abbey Lincoln’s painfully beautiful work on this piece paints an eerie picture of a devastating time in American history.    
    – Caleb Schmale, Jake Walters

  7. R. B. Lynch/Abbey Lincoln | When Autumn Sings

    Avi Randall, voice, piano


    Program note

    When Autumn Sings, written by R.B Lynch, is a song about possibilities. This song connects the spectacle of fall with the values we cherish in ourselves and in others, the beauty of passing time and the changes we go through, and the fleeting nature of the seasons with the importance of consistency. The colors of autumn are beautiful, yet temporary. While the leaves on the trees change, they will soon fall to the ground. From there, they become part of the earth and renew life when the sun rises during the spring. The bonds we make return to us and in the process change and grow into countless possibilities; of love, of connection, and of hope. This song serves as a reminder to me that time is limited, and sometimes we barely notice the passage. It tells me to remain positive and hope for a better, fuller future, and to be open to change, growth, and the people surrounding me.                                               
    – Avi Randall

     Dreams may grace others in winter, spring, or summer; But I like fall best of all.

  8. R. B. Lynch/Abbey Lincoln | And How I Hoped For Your Love

    Dominique Eade, voice
    Ken Schaphorst, piano
    Nasheet Waits, drums

  9. Abbey Lincoln | And It's Supposed to be Love

    Francesca Ter-Berg, voice, cello
    Kaia Berman-Peters, voice, accordion


    Program note

    Love, abuse, heartbreak, and vulnerability run through the lyrics to this heavy yet uplifting song. By weaving together our own improvisational styles with those of Abbey Lincoln and her collaborator Maggie Brown, we strive to renew her words and reframe the original whilst staying true to the text and delivery. 
    – Francesca Ter-Berg, Kaia Berman-Peters

  10. Abbey Lincoln | Down Here Below/Where Are the African Gods

    Sahana Narayanan, voice
    Miguel Landestoy, piano
    Francesca Ter-Berg, cello
    Solomon Caldwell, double bass


    Program note

    We chose Down Here Below because it encapsulates the notion of yearning for something beyond our physical plane of existence. To us, it symbolizes our call, especially as artists, to look beyond the plight of the world's ‘isms’ that divide and the systems that seem to be out of our control. I think we’ve all felt the collective weight of the events of the last two or so years, and we wanted to create a space that allows the performer and audience to reflect on that. The incorporation of Abbey’s poem Where are the African Gods? evokes her time as an activist in the civil rights movement. Abbey, never afraid to speak hard truths, uses these poignant words to shed light on our current political climate and why we must continue to press on in the fight for equality and justice.                                      
    – Solomon Caldwell

  11. Abbey Lincoln | The Music is the Magic

    Roman Barten-Sherman, voice, guitar


    Program note

    In my arrangement of The Music is the Magic by Abbey Lincoln, I look to synthesize melodic and rhythmic ideas from both the 1992 Devil’s Got Your Tongue and the 2007 Abbey Sings Abbey recordings. This interpretation functions out of a de-tuned Vestapol open tuning, which lends a textural intensity to my instrumental accompaniment. Bottleneck slide technique is employed both to parallel tonalities of the human voice as well as to extend the guitar’s vocabulary of noise and timbre.
    – Roman Barten-Sherman

  12. R. B. Lynch/Abbey Lincoln | Love Lament

    Emily Mitchell, voice, guitar
    Solomon Caldwell, double bass
    Jun Hyuk Joseph Seo, drums


    Program note

    Composed by R.B. Lynch with lyrics by Abbey Lincoln, Love Lament is a striking and sentimental ballad that evokes deep emotions on life and love. Our interpretation is meant to display the different layers of heartbreak while staying true to Abbey’s powerful lyricism.                        
    – Emily Mitchell, Solomon Caldwell, Jun Hyuk Joseph Seo

  13. Phil Moore | Tender as a Rose

    Sarah Matsushima, voice
    Yoona Kim, voice, ajaeng


    Program note

    This arrangement of Abbey Lincoln's Tender As A Rose draws inspiration from Korean radio drama, adding the role of an outside narrator to the piece in order to give additional emphasis to important moments in the text. In this performance, we seek to bring the story of Tender As A Rose to life through its emotion and the mood it evokes by way of narration, timbre, and improvisation.                                                                                                                               
    –- Sarah Matsushima, Yoona Kim

  14. Abbey Lincoln (arr. Eden MacAdam-Somer) | Bird Alone

    Christine Correa, voice

    CI Chamber Ensemble


    Program note

    I was first introduced to Abbey Lincoln's music through Ran Blake. Watching and listening to her work, I came to know her as a brilliantly creative, strong, independent, outspoken individual, with a real gift for storytelling in her lyrics. This arrangement draws heavily on Christine Correa and Ran Blake’s 2011 recording on their tribute to Abbey Lincoln album (vol. 1) Down Here Below, and then moves into Abbey’s own 2007 recording (from Abbey Sings Abbey). I love the dovetailing of the two sound-worlds and the image of the lone bird flying at the end in the closing piano phrase (a Ran Blake quotation). In a backstage interview with Frank Beacham, just a couple of years before her death, Abbey spoke of her inspiration for the song:

    I was in Japan, and Miles was there with his band, and he wasn’t well…it wasn’t until a couple of years later when I discovered it was really about me…

    And so we close tonight with a self-portrait by Abbey Lincoln.
                                                                                                                 -– Eden MacAdam-Somer

    Bird alone flying high
    Flying through a clouded sky

    Sending mournful soulful sounds
    Soaring over troubled grounds

    Bird alone with no mate
    Turning corners tempting fate
    Flying circles in the air
    Are you on your way somewhere

    Gliding soaring on the wind
    You're a sight of glory
    Flying way up there so high
    Wonder what's your story

    Bird alone flying low
    Over where the grasses grow
    Swingin' low then out of sight
    You'll be singing in the night


    Stuart Ryerse, recorder
    Chris Chapin, accordion
    Kathleen Wallace, Carson McHaney, violin
    Katie Purcell, viola
    G Korth-Rockwell, electric guitar
    Avi Randall, piano
    Solomon Caldwell, double bass
    Jun Hyuk Joseph Seo, drums



In this streamed concert—the live version of which took place in Jordan Hall on February 15—CI students (under the guidance of Ran Blake, Eden MacAdam-Somer, and special guest Christine Correa) take a deep dive into the life and work of singer, composer, activist, and actress Abbey Lincoln.