By Brian Scott Lipton
While there is music and love and romance, why not just soak it all in? Sounds hard? Nah! It’s easy to do if you can make it to the stunning Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola where that divine diva, Ann Hampton Callaway, is premiering her superb new show “Jazz Goes to the Movies” for a brief run. (Hopefully, it will resurface soon for an extended engagement.)
Now, admittedly with the gorgeous backdrop of the Manhattan skyline behind her, a wonderfully flexible voice, and a rare gift for lyric interpretation, Callaway could probably turn “The Hokey Pokey” into a love song. Nonetheless, the 13 tunes she’s carefully chosen for this show — including Irving Berlin’s timeless yet all-too-timely “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” — are sure to make you sigh and swoon (not to mention swing and scat).
Beginning with an upbeat rendition of the iconic “As Time Goes By” and ending with an even more joyous “Taking a Chance on Love,” the show simply breezes by as Callaway and her marvelous trio of musicians (pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Martin Wind, and drummer Tim Horner) put their singular stamp on classic tunes from the 1930s and 1940s that were sung on film. (The sole exception is the gorgeous “Lucky to Be Me” from the great Broadway musical “On the Town” and which was sadly – and foolishly — not used in the MGM film version.)
For pure, unadulterated romance, you simply can’t top Callaway’s simply dreamy versions of “The Nearness of You,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” and “Long Ago and Far Away” — which also happen to be four of the most perfect songs ever written. (I imagine if you were sitting next to a stranger when Callaway sings these gems, you might be engaged by the time she was finished!)
Equally enchanting was her Brazilian-inspired take on the glorious “How Little We Know” (which was used in the Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall classic “To Have and Have Not”). By subtly changing their melodies, as well, she breathed new life into Berlin’s oft-performed “Blue Skies” (which was actually penned for Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer”) and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s bittersweet “This Time the Dream’s on Me.”
While ballads dominated the evening, the joint was jumping along with Callaway on her super-sassy rendition of Rodgers & Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love” (which, while written for Broadway’s “The Boys From Syracuse,” later ended up in the 1962 musical “Jumbo”) and Cole Porter’s effervescent “Just One of Those Things.”
Yep, a trip to the moon on gossamer wings – that’s what it’s like to spend 75 minutes with Ann Hampton Callaway!
“Jazz Goes to the Movies” continues at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola (in the Time Warner Center) through August 31. Visit www.jazz.org for tickets.