Story and Photos by James Walker, Jr.
Maggie Sings Abbey. Who else to pay tribute to Abbey Lincoln than Maggie Brown.
She was the ideal vocalist to portray one of America's most gifted and
underrated "story teller." Maggie usually honors Abbey with a selection or two
during most of her performances, but this was a special opportunity for her to
really share with the public the wealth and depth of Abbey's songbook.
Maggie shared the stage with a top notch band that included Shawn Wallace on
piano, Kwame Steve Cobb on drums, Joshua Ramos on bass, Justin Thomas on
vibraphone, Marquis Hill on trumpet, Rajiv Halim Orozco on alto sax and the
"doctor" Curtis Robinson on guitar.
Maggie appropriately opened the program with "Strongman," a composition written
by her father, the late and great Oscar Brown, Jr. She chose for her second
selection, "Learning How To Listen," a song taken from Abbey's Wholly Earth CD
that Maggie had the honor of recording a duet with Abbey on. This soft ballad
featured an extended solo by vibraphonist Justin Thomas.
Throughout this first set, Maggie shared stories about Abbey with the audience
and was in her "comfort zone." She was relaxed and her vocals were impeccable.
Her band mates shared the spotlight on several numbers including guitarist
Curtis Robinson's first of many exceptional solos on the blues tinged "Hey Lordy
Mama." Curtis had the guitar "crying" on this selection.
They closed out the first set with several members of the band being featured on
"Not To Worry." Maggie indicated this was the only number she slightly
rearranged. It actually had a Caribbean vibe which allowed Rajiv and Marquis
to engage in friendly bantering during their solo while Robinson and Ramos
made sweet music in the background.
The highlight of the 2nd set was "Down Here Below." As Maggie used her beautiful
instrument to wow the crowd at this Jazz Institute-sponsored affair, her band
continued to display their uncanny skills in the background. On this song
trumpeter Hill and Robinson seemed to please the audience as they exchanged
A very touching moment occurred when Maggie shared with the audience her recent
visit to see Abbey in New York. The two of them sang a few chords from "Cage
Bird Sings". Maggie then preceded to sing this song, including blending in the
sounds of a bird. One could see the glee in her eyes as she delivered this song
with soulful emotion and feelings.
This splendid evening of song came to a climatic conclusion with "Wholly Earth",
the selection Maggie sings so well. Cobb introduced it along with bassist Ramos
before Maggie took over. All had an opportunity leave their mark with this
capacity crowd as they received a rousing ovation upon completion