An exquisite cabaret artist at the top of her form.
By Joel Benjamin
I could write “wow” 250 times but wouldn’t come close to describing the splendid Ann Hampton Callaway’s Best of Ann Hampton Callaway at 54 below. She’s one of those artists who can change your life. You will be better for having experienced her artistry.
First, her look: tall, statuesque, with a lovely oval face framed by dramatic black hair and eyes that sparkle. Then, the voice: one of the richest in cabaret with a huge range and many layers. She can go from easygoing to exultant within a song as in her medley of “People” (Styne/Merrill) and “Being Alive” (Sondheim).
She turned the Beatles’ “[S]he’s Leaving Home” (Lennon/McCartney) into a richly fascinating three-act play.
She did a mean imitation of Barbra Steisand, whose wedding song (“I Dreamed of You”) she co-wrote, but when she sang tributes to her and her other musical heroine, Sarah Vaughan, never losing herself or directly copying their styles. Tapping into Vaughan’s versions of “Misty” (Erroll Garner/Johnny Burke) and Streisand’s “Don’t Rain On My Parade” (Styne/Merrill) magically enhanced Ms. Callaway’s own interpretive powers. (Not to mention a breathlessly moving rendition of the above-mentioned “I Dream of You”)
The arrangements by her music director Ted Rosenthal were superb, sometimes combining classical music with Kern and Sondheim without dishonoring either songwriter’s melodies. “Pick Yourself Up” (Kern/Fields) had a charmingly delicate Bach obbligato. Under the “Send In the Clowns” (Sondheim) melody was moody Beethoven giving even more weight to an exquisitely restrained interpretation.
She turned suggestions from the audience into a wonderful improvisation which was her way of thanking her very responsive, sold-out audience, then ended with a powerful “Blues In the Night” (Arlen/Mercer).
Her band was completed by Dean Johnson on bass and Tim Horner on drums who, with Mr. Rosenthal on piano, provided rich accompaniment.
Ann Hampton Callaway
The Best of Ann Hampton Callaway – January 10, 2015
54 Below 254 West 54th St. between Broadway and 8th Ave. New York, NY
Reservations: 646-476-3551 or www.54below.com
More Information: www.annhamptoncallaway.com