By Brian Scott Lipton . . .
Don’t worry, Ann Hampton Callaway knows what day it is. Yes, February 14 is a not-too-distant memory, but there’s no reason not to celebrate love a few days later. And there’s no better way to do so than by seeing Callaway in her superb new show Afterglow: A Jazz Valentine, which she’s performing inside Jazz at Lincoln Center’s soigne Dizzy’s Club alongside her brilliant trio of musicians. (Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on the bass, and Tim Horner on the drums). As Callaway reminds us, both in song and speech, “each day is Valentine’s Day.”
That lyric, by the late Lorenz Hart, is beautifully rendered by Callaway in the bittersweet “My Funny Valentine,” one of approximately a dozen songs in which she stunningly presents all facets of love, from Cole Porter’s beguiling “All of You” to Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn’s timeless “Love Me or Leave Me” (which she offers up as a tribute to one of her great influences, Nina Simone, who released a jazz version of this classic tune in 1958.)
Callaway can practically bring one to tears with the gorgeous “The Shadow of Your Smile” (Johnny Mandel/Paul Francis Webster) about the memory of a love now gone; renew one’s faith in the hope of finding love with a zippy “Taking A Chance on Love” (Vernon Duke/John LaTouche/Ted Fetter); or make you practically jump out of your seat – especially if you’ve already found true love – with her delightfully upbeat takes on “The Best Is Yet to Come” (Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh) and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (Irving Berlin).
Perhaps the most effective section of “Afterglow” is her tribute to her recently deceased friend, the great lyricist Marilyn Bergman. In addition to reading a tear-inducing poem that she wrote about her, Callaway offers glorious versions of two of her most memorable songs, both of which offer gimlet-eyed takes on the realities of love: “On My Way to You” and “How Do You Keep the Music Playing” (both with music by Michel LeGrand and lyrics co-written by Marilyn’s husband, Alan Bergman).
Callaway also pays homage to another musical giant we recently lost, Stephen Sondheim. Her rendition of “No One Is Alone” (from Into the Woods) is affecting, but like Sondheim, I’m not a huge advocate of anyone tinkering with his intricate melodies; and while “Somewhere” – which she uses as her encore – is quite moving, it must be noted that a lot of the song’s feeling (for me) comes from Leonard Bernstein’s ethereal music.
That said, no matter your life circumstances, at the moment, or your views on love, the place for all of us this weekend is Dizzy’s, where we can bask in the glow and afterglow provided by one of the best singers on the planet.
Ann Hampton Callaway: Afterglow: A Jazz Valentine continues at Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center (10 Columbus Circle, 5th Floor) through Sunday, February 20. Visit www.jazz.org or call (212) 258-9800 for tickets and information.
Photos: Debra DeMartini