September 11, 1995 12:00 PM

Abbey Lincoln

Like her idol the late Billie Holiday, jazz singer Abbey Lincoln is a consummate storyteller. Laying back seductively on the beat, she wraps her warm contralto around a melody and entices listeners to hang on every word of a song. On the title track of this album, arguably her best effort since she made her recording debut nearly four decades ago, Lincoln adopts the persona of a turtle who dreams of soaring like an eagle but ultimately finds comfort in the realization that “I can swim the ocean/ And it’s deep and wide/ And in the house above me abide.”

Most of the 11 songs here, which include nine Lincoln originals, are ruminations about the freedom of the spirit. True, other jazz divas may be endowed with greater range or pitch than Lincoln, but there are few singers who can match her exquisite sense of timing and the emotional depth she brings to a song. At 65, she is in peak form and justifiably concludes, “There will always be a stage, a song for me/ Hold the curtain open, it’s time to take a bow.” (Verve)

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