Deep Dive: Abbey Lincoln’s You Gotta Pay The Band featuring Stan Getz

a picture of the cover of Abbey Lincoln's You Gotta Pay the Band

On today’s Afternoon Cruise we’ll be doing a deep dive into Abbey Lincoln’s 1991 album You Gotta Pay The Band. The featured guest on the album is the esteemed legend Stan Getz in one of his last recording sessions before his passing in June of 1991. Throughout the album I am reminded of three primary take-aways which I’ll highlight in some detail right here:

  1. Abbey Lincoln can keep me on the edge of my seat better than any vocalist in the jazz world and she stands out among many great jazz interpreters by being herself an incredible writer
  2. Stan Getz needs to be in the discussion for being the greatest saxophonist in history in regards to collaborating with vocalists
  3. Hank Jones on piano alongside Charlie Haden on bass is a dynamic combination that never misses

Thankfully, there are thousands of ways to deliver a song. There are vocalists who set me deep into a place of comfort, bringing me the song a soft cushioned delivery that lets the stories and the spirit drip out slowly no matter the tempo of the song. There are rollercoaster vocalists, who navigate every twist and turn with an athleticism and virtuosity that boggles your mind. And then there’s Abbey Lincoln, a master of rhythm, a sculptor of melody, but perhaps most impressively a master of surprise. Every line in an Abbey Lincoln feels like a potential key change to me, an ability to turn on a dime, a chance to discover something new in a line you’ve heard before. It makes this record, and Lincoln’s discography in general, far from background music. Abbey Lincoln’s writing and singing were absolutely non-ignorable. Don’t put this one on at the dinner party, put it on when your ears are ready to listen.

Stan Getz is a household name in the jazz world and for good reason. During his fifty year career he was present at so many important moments in the story of jazz becoming an international phenomenon. But between me, you and this blog post, I took him for granted. I loved what he did but I always admired the people he was next to more than I admired him. That changes a bit with a deep listen to this record. Stan had a special gift for marrying his sax work to the world’s great vocalists with a sensitivity and generosity that I don’t think many saxophonists can muster. His work with vocalists is never competitive, it’s always additive and most importantly, there is never mimicry; he never plays what Abbey Lincoln just sang, he plays with what Abbey Lincoln just sang. Masterful.

Hank Jones and Charlie Haden made one of my favorite records of all time, Steal Away. The album is too emotional for me to pull out all that often, but when I do I am reminded how human music can be. No click track, no aiming for mechanical perfection. . .instead the sound of two humans finding the music that’s already within them. This record captures some of that interchange, but in a larger ensemble setting. Charlie Haden ranks high among my favorite jazz musicians period, but this record has helped me realize that something deeper is going on when Haden and Jones are together.

If you have trepidation about digging into vocal jazz, this might be the record to help you step in. World class musicians navigating world class songs without the tropes of vocal jazz that can often get in the way. I hope you’ll take the time to enjoy this masterful album this afternoon on the Afternoon Cruise and forever in your collection!


Thanks for checking this deep dive out and if you have music suggestions, contact me at

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