Wednesday, July 20, 2011

CABARET review - Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway
With Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums

Ann Hampton Callaway jokes about her Diva of America status in the music world, but it is a well known fact that this lady is a singer's singer. Like Barbara Cook in the world of theatre, although many, many years her junior, Callaway is the top in the world of jazz/pop, and all singers flock to hear her perform. Her meticulously clear phrasing, magnificent range, ability to scat and overall great vocal instrument make her a fantastic night club singer and recording artist. In her set at Catalina Jazz Club July 28-31, Callaway had a rather short list of songs, but what she did to enhance each and every tune was nothing less than remarkable.

Her astounding trio Christian Jacob on piano, Kevin Axt on bass and Ray Brinker on drums opened the 80-minute set with a rousing rendition of "Time After Time", after which Callaway crooned "In a Mellow Tone". What followed were three songs in honor of her idols: Billie Holliday ("God Bless the Child"), Sarah Vaughn ("Misty") and Ella Fitzgerald "How High the Moon". Her exact impersonations of the vocal stylings of the first two are truly amazing, but she only did portions of each song, giving Ella and "...Moon" the most loving attention, without trying to impersonate, just making the song her very own. There followed Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Wave" and a sexy seductive "All of Me" sung deliciously to an audience member Callaway referred to as her ex-husband. It's a wonderfully funny bit as she introduces herself to his gay partner as his ex-wife.

Her newest CD Boom, recorded live at Birdland with her sister Liz Callaway, got promoted via two songs The Righteous Brothers "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin" - simply sensational - and Carol King's splendid "You've Got a Friend". Callaway noted that King was really what brought her and Liz together vocally, as their musical interests had followed different paths until they reveled in their mutual love of King. Callaway next essayed perhaps one the most beautiful arrangements of Harold Arlen's "Over the Rainbow" I have ever heard, from her previous album At Last. No stranger to Broadway, having starred in Swing, Callaway closed with a delicious rendition of "Ain't Misbehavin", which brought her fine bassist Kevin Axt front and center. Her Improv set served as encore. She fielded words and phrases from the audience and sat at the piano for fifteen minutes, creating a musical composition on the spot using every word and phrase offered to her. Amazing! Try putting carmageddon, debt ceiling, beso, and pastrami in the same tune; Callaway took what seemed an impossible task and turned it into a delightfully entertaining segment.

Ann Hampton Callaway has it all: beauty, talent and a very special warmth and personality that must be experienced live, up close. Her fans adore her, and it is easy to see why. Catch her wherever she performs, and that will include a live concert of Boom with her sister Liz next March at Pepperdine University.
In the meantime, visit her website for info on the new CD.

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