Blues In The Night

Ann Hampton Callaway lets her hair down

This September, Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola at Lincoln Center will feature a month-long “Women in Jazz Festival” featuring outstanding female jazz artists. None better to lead the list than the dynamic singer songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway. Having just released an exhilarating CD, “Blues in the Night,” Callaway will celebrate by sharing insights and anecdotes about her life in music and performing songs from her CD with the stellar trio of Ted Rosenthal on piano, Jay Leonhart on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums.

It always seems a shame to remind people that Callaway is best known for writing the theme to the TV hit “The Nanny” since it is far from her best work. She is an extremely accomplished songwriter and her music and lyrics have been performed and recorded by artists from Barbra Streisand to Liza Minnelli and Patti Lupone, just to name a few. Callaway has of course released a successful string of critically acclaimed albums of standards and originals.

“Blues in the Night,” her debut on Telarc International, is a vibrant and emotive collection of standards, combined with effective and clever original songs, Callaway classifies as “Ann-dards,” While reading the track listing, one would assume these songs to be jazz standards, the arrangements and stylings are anything but standard, including some by Tommy Newsom, Johnny Carson’s longtime musical director on “The Tonight Show.”

“Swingin’ Away the Blues,” Callaway’s self-penned opening track, sets the tone of the CD with a powerful upbeat, finger snapping rhythmic pace. She immediately follows this song with a haunted and evocative rendition of “Blue Moon.” The contrasts between the two songs are examples of the magic Callaway has crafted throughout the entire CD.

Another standout from the remaining 10 tracks is a no-holds-barred rendition of the title cut, “Blues in the Night,” which Callaway first recorded for her Tony-nominated role in the Broadway Musical “Swing.” Don’t let the title lead you to believe that this might be an all-blues CD. Callaway incorporates a balance in sound, emotion, and verse to offer the listener contrast and variety. The resulting product is an hour of music filled with beautiful tunes that are surprisingly uplifting, entertaining, melodic, soothing, exciting and fun.

The yin and the yang that Callaway creates throughout the entire CD take hold of your heart and your mind and do not release you at the end of a song. The artistry she has created in each recording as well as in the intelligence and musicality she demonstrates in the placement of the tracks make it tough for the listener to walk away until the very last song has played; it’s as though you are at a live performance.

“This is the feistiest, gutsiest, most let-your-hair-down CD I’ve ever recorded,” Callaway laughs. “There are quiet and reflective moments and you will also hear me wail. I am really proud of this CD. It’s very me. The songs reveal a real portrait of who I am and what I feel and believe in this time of my life. The album expresses the full range of who I am and, of all my recordings, it comes closest to the feel of a live concert.”

Nothing really compares to seeing Callaway performing live. While many recording artists today lack stage presence Callaway is the real deal; on stage she is mesmerizing. Her voice, with its three-octave range is flawless. Her repertoire is seemingly endless and her stage banter witty, engaging, and endearing. She draws from her endless catalogue of her own songs, her current CD, past recordings, ending each set with an improvisational song-writing game with the audience that demonstrates her adept skills at forging new material.

So go celebrate at Dizzy’s Club and let one of the great women of jazz show you an intimate self portrait and teach you how much fun the blues can really be!

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