I had the great pleasure this evening of hearing Ann Hampton Callaway at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola in midtown with three amazing musicians, Ted Rosenthal, on piano, Jay Leonheart on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums. The room is gorgeous and was packed this first show on a Saturday night. Callaway was in fine form in all directions.
Callaway’s voice runs from a deep warm open low to a floating delicate clear super high and possesses a million colors of belt and mix in between with nary a bump in sight. She seamlessly bounces through rounds of scating — while her strong voice rolls in and out of all kinds of sounds with supreme control, always in service of what she wants to do with the song. She sings without fear, but also without conceit, and her heart is true to what she wants to convey. As a fine musician, (she is a composer and pianist of renown) Ann is very much at home with the three giants on stage with her and she trades riffs with them with great joy. And, if that were not enough, she composes a song (always) at the end of the set that includes a few phrases from the audience. It is amazing to hear her come up with lyrics and notes that work as rhyme as well as melody. Cheech!
Her mom is a singing teacher and Ann learned much from her, but not everything. She had other classical teachers at school. The rest, she once told me, was her own invention. She sings as someone does when they know that they know and it is a true privilege and gift to hear live music of this calibre. Her belting is powerful and strong, rangy and free, and she does not ever lose her voice. Her three octave range is expressive and under her command as she improvs her way along or holds a vocal line to the nth degree, decrescendo-ing down to triple piano when she wants.
Guess you can tell that I was very impressed. Don’t know why she isn’t a “household” word. She puts many a younger singer who has reached “fame” under the table. (Duffy, are you listening to this?)
Go buy her new album, “At Last”. Etta James needs to make room for someone else to sit with her on that throne.