A great singer/songwriter gives creative females their due in a scintillating cabaret program.



By Joel Benjamin


Let me get this off my chest, because I’ve been keeping it in far too long: Ann Hampton Callaway is simply magnificent. Her Feminine Persuasion: Ann Hampton Callaway Celebrates Women Songwriters at Feinstein’s/54 Below confirmed this. Everything about the show, her singing, her personality, the richness of the selections, her terrific band (led by Ted Rosenthal) and her commitment to the material made for an unforgettable evening.


As a singer/songwriter herself, she featured several numbers by similar artists, including her very appropriate opening number, “I Love Being Here With You” by Peggy Lee and Bill Schluger.   Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child” (with Arthur Hertzog, Jr.) had a gospel force. The zany jazz standard “Twisted” (“my analyst told me…”) by the revered singer Annie Ross and Wardell Gray was cool jazz personified.


Ms. Callaway’s own songs were well-represented.   Her lush but sad, “Almost,” written with another great artist Amanda McBroom (who famously penned “The Rose”) had a bittersweet feeling.   She ended the show with two of her own creations:   “Love and Let Love” (with Michele Brourman), an anthem-like ode to love and the sweet, yearning “Fly with the Angels” (with William Schermerhorn), her encore, which left her celebrity-filled audience moved by its timely plea for keeping your loved ones close to you.


Of course, you can’t do a show about female songstresses without including numbers by the legendary Dorothy Fields and Carolyn Leigh. From the songbook of the former was an almost wistful interpretation of “Just the Way You Look Tonight” (with Jerome Kern) and from the latter, a cool, jazzy “Witchcraft” (with Cy Coleman), both filled with long, almost meditative instrumental interludes.


Speaking of instruments, Ms. Callaway outdid herself in “How High the Moon” (Nancy Hamilton/Morgan Lewis) in which her stratospheric scatting channeled flutes, trumpets and cellos.


Melissa Manchester’s “When Paris Was a Woman” evoked both the 1920s of Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein and, in sad contrast, the recent tragic events in that timeless city.


Ms. Callaway’s “Both Sides Now” (Joni Mitchell) is one of the most clear-eyed in the business and her version of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” got the audience singing along.


The witty band was completed by Martin Wind on bass and Tim Horner on drums. Ms. Callaway also played the piano accompanying herself on several songs. Is there any limit to her talent?


Feminine Persuasion: Ann Hampton Callaway Celebrates Women Songwriters

(November 22-28, 2015)

Feinstein’s/54 Below

254 West 54th Street, between Broadway & 8th Avenue

New York, NY

For reservations call 646-476-3551 or visit www.Feinstein’s/54below.com