On "Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace"

I remember the day vividly: sitting in the stacks of the Cincinnati Public Library, my feet propped up, headphones on. I'd been self-educating myself in jazz the past year or so, and I was wading into the deeper waters of Max Roach's We Insist! album. And then “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace” came on. With it, a whole new world of music, history, political protest, and possibility broke upon me — not bad for a nine-minute song with no recognizable words.

What I appreciated most about “Triptych” then, and still today, listening to it as I type these words, is how Abbey Lincoln so completely inhabits her lament and her anger . . . and maybe her sensuality as a whole. Her voice in this track, as it were, takes on physical form. Coupled with Roach’s drum especially, you’re thumped in the chest, first with her thumb, then her elbow; you see her chest heave, almost luridly; and you feel her breath inside your ear and against your neck. By the time the song ends, you’ve not so much “seen through her eyes,” as you’ve been seen, finally, by her. Oh, Abbey Lincoln . . . how we miss you.    -- Brad J.