Ann Hampton Callaway: Jazz Goes to The Movies

A celebration of classic movie sensibility, Ann Hampton Callaway’s latest show offers iconic songs from film and songs from iconic films. Like many of us, it’s clear the artist grew up wondering where the violins were when something romantic occurred, why horns were absent when she had the blues. (Unlike most of us, the musician/songwriter is fully equipped to underscore her life.) Well known numbers are interpreted with  jazz coloration.

A mid-tempo “As Time Goes By” (Herman Hupfeld – Casablanca) emerges with implicit finger-snapping…a-a-a-a case of do or die… Callaway sings brightly. The Latin-scented “How Little We Know” (Hoagy Carmichael/Johnny Mercer – To Have and Have Not) seems to surface with soft edges from the back of her throat. Ted Rosenthal’s hands travel the whole keyboard. Notes twirl.

Tim Horner, Martin Wind, Ann Hampton Callaway, Ted Rosenthal

Perched on a stool, Callaway embraces “The Nearness of You” (Hoagy Carmichael/ Ned Washington – Romance in the Dark). Her first moon sends out shimmering musical rays. Martin Wind’s bowed bass solo resembles phrases of endearment. Every now and then, the vocalist unexpectedly goes up an octave eliciting frisson. The song is warm, hopeful, full of imagining. Her smile during a lilting “The Way You Look Tonight” (Jerome Kern/ Dorothy Fields – Swing Time), a pause between…breathless and charm, the rise of a hand, palm forward, fingers spread as if conjuring, help us see what she sees.

“During World War II, songwriters tried to write with beauty, charm, and wit… lyrics that smile through their tears,” Callaway comments. Her rendition of “The Folks Who Live On the Hill” (Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein II – High, Wide, and Handsome) is suddenly bittersweet, as if the woman left at home is striving to will a perfect outcome of her hazy future. Callaway burrows deep. I’ve never heard it this way before. Piano is ephemeral, like wisps of fading memory.

Up-tempo selections include “This Can’t Be Love” (Richard Rodgers/Larry Hart – Jumbo and the Broadway show Boys From Syracuse) and Cole Porter’s “Just One of Those Things” (featured in nine films). Callaway applies her personal stamp to even the most familiar songs. Her elastic voice is jazzy and cool, collaged into new patterns, cognizant of, but not bound to beat. The Porter is a high spirited shrug. “Common’ everybody, sing along!” she encourages with a twinkle. Rosenthal burns up the keys.

Ann Hampton Callaway, Ted Rosenthal

“The little black dress of love songs”, Jerome Kern/George Gershwin’s “Long Ago and Far Away” (Cover Girl and Till the Clouds Roll By), is so ardent, the band couldn’t fit onstage with further expansion of Callaway’s heart. This gorgeous performance, buoyed by Rosenthal’s delicate piano, melts the room.

Among many excellent arrangements, that of Irving Berlin’s “Blue Skies” (The Jazz Singer and the film Blue Skies) stands out, at first comfortably sailing, then swooping with infectious exuberance. “Taking a Chance on Love” (Vernon Duke/John La Touche/Ted Fetter – Cabin in the Sky) showcases Callaway’s super, grade A, unhomogenized scat – a hallmark. (This description sounds so right, I may have previously employed it referring to Callaway.) The song is happy, happy, happy. A good way to leave us feeling.

Photos by Lawrence Sumulong
Opening: Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway: Jazz Goes to The Movies
Ted Rosenthal-Piano, Martin Wind-Bass, Tim Horner-Drums
Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola- Jazz at Lincoln Center
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About Alix Cohen (849 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.