Abbey Lincoln has one of the most distinctive voices in jazz. She is also one of today's most respected songwriters. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, Ms. Lincoln combines her two greatest gifts on her first album in four years, Abbey Sings Abbey.

At age 76, Abbey Lincoln looked no further than her own songs to refresh, rework and record for "Abbey Sings Abbey."

All but one song debuted on previous albums dating back to 1991, such as "Throw It Away" from "A Turtle's Dream." Or, her tribute to saxophonist Charlie Parker on "Bird Alone" from "You Gotta Pay The Band."

Charlie Parker wasn't Abbey Lincoln's only influence. Growing up one of 12 children in rural Michigan, she was drawn to vocalists Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Dinah Washington, whose bluesy interpretations of jazz standards had a lasting impact on Abbey.

She won an amateur singing contest at age 19, six years before landing her first recording contract. Abbey also enjoyed a brief film career in the 1960s, with a return to the big screen in 1990 for the Spike Lee film "Mo' Better Blues."

Abbey began writing songs in the early-1970s, and, like her singing and acting, she approaches her craft organically. She says, "I write when I'm inspired. I don't sit around waiting to write or sing or paint, for that matter. I wait. If I hear something I'll write it down or commit it to memory one way or another."

Not one to forget her musical roots, Abbey Lincoln wrote the lyrics to the classic Thelonious Monk tune, "Blue Monk," featured on her new album Abbey Sings Abbey.