By Ron Fassler
The Green Room 42 in New York City played host to Ann Hampton Callaway channeling the song stylist and composer Peggy Lee. It was almost too perfect— in that one great singer was paying tribute to another, and as that is just my cup of tea, the drink was hot and delicious (with just a touch of honey).
For those not in the know, Ann Hampton Callaway enjoys a popularity with audiences around the world, serving up her own stellar brand of solid musicianship. Not only a pop/jazz singer with a wide vocal range and vivacious personality, she is also a songwriter, expert “scatter,” and a gatekeeper of the Great American Songbook. Whenever she takes the stage, she offers a bit of history to give context to what she is singing, always careful to acknowledge those who’ve come before her and have affected her own personal style. The charm factor is off the charts when she is commanding a show, and that’s abundantly evident in this new show, as it concentrates solely on someone who has meant a great deal to her as a fellow artist.
With Fever—The Peggy Lee Century, Callaway is saluting one of her idols who she consistently has worked into her shows throughout the years. This being Lee’s centenary, those in attendance were viewing its first performance before Callaway expands upon it and begins touring it around the country and beyond. With a dozen songs and a two-part encore, we were treated to sterling examples of what made Lee such an enduring figure in popular music, all the more special due to her having composed a number of her biggest hits.
Callaway brought her own personal stamp to such Lee compositions as “I Love Being Here With You,” “Johnny Guitar,” and “He’s a Tramp” from the Disney cartoon Lady and the Tramp; and she sang many of Lee’s hits like “Is That All There Is,” “Why Don’t You Do Right?” and “Black Coffee.” Referred to sometimes as “the female Frank Sinatra,” Callaway mentioned how Lee often opined out loud why Sinatra wasn’t referred to as “the male Peggy Lee?” Good question.
Backed by Ted Rosenthal (piano), Dean Johnson (bass), and Tim Horner (drums), the set was tight, and the hour flew by. In addition to being funny and endearing, Callaway is above all else as fine a musician as you can find on the cabaret stage. Check out her schedule and see if you can catch her next time she appears in New York City, or in a city near you.
Ann Hampton Callaway
The Green Room 42 — 570 10th Ave, New York City