Ann Hampton Callaway: The Summer Knows: Cool Songs for Warm Nights

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Ann Hampton Callaway

The Summer Knows: Cool Songs for Warm Nights

Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, NYC, June 24, 2018

Reviewed by Alix Cohen for Cabaret Scenes

Ann Hampton Callaway
Photo: Stephen Sorokoff

Ann Hampton Callaway shepherds in the summer with a happy, long-lined “Old Devil Moon” (Burton Lane/E.Y. “Yip’ Harburg): “eyezzz and “glanccce airbrushed as candle smoke, “free as a dove” dipping hammock low. Offering an earthy, positive show at a time we all need it, the artist exudes enviable pleasure. A good time in her life, one presumes.

“This song is a wonderful remembrance of my being open to possibility” prefaces “Teach Me Tonight” (Gene De Paul/Sammy Cahn). The lyric emerges as hopefully ardent as it does sultry—a heady blend. Callaway’s own “Slow” follows with Tim Horner’s muffled cymbal and chimes. Lost in a long gaze  “…as the sky turns into gold…,” it’s a languid, husky purr.

Billy Barnes’ extraordinary “Something Cool” was written for an actress who couldn’t get a handle on her role as Blanche DuBois. (Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire.) Accompanying herself on piano, Callaway epitomizes Kipling’s “the captain’s lady and Judy O’Grady are sisters under the skin”. At the same time genteel and desperately on the make, she gives us bruising emotional truth.

“Bluesette” (Norman Gimbel/Toots Thielemans) finds the excellent Dean Johnson practically climbing inside his embraced bass while Callaway executes hallmark, stunt-flying scat. The musically difficult “Spain (I Can Recall)” (Chick Corea/Joaquin Rodrigo/Al Jarreau/Artie Maren) blows in like a mistral. Callaway looks up and away to lost love. Shoulders tilt, her microphone arm pumps, she bounces. Scat is crisply pointillist (grains of blowing sand?). Ted Rosenthal’s piano music is forceful, evocative, hands-off-the-handlebars free. (It’s the only truly melancholy number.)

We hear Leslie Bricusse/Henry Mancini’s “Two for the Road,” which the artist wishes she had included in her upcoming CD Jazz Goes to the Movies. “I was blessed to meet the love of my life 12 years ago,” Callaway shares. Bowed bass, shimmering cymbal, stroked piano…the vocalist perched on a stool with sudden gravitas, heart in her voice…resonant, plucked bass, piano like sun on water. In Callaway’s hands, this is not just a wistful love song, it bears the history and vicissitudes of a relationship. She’s utterly invested. “Did anyone else cry or was it just me?” she asks wiping away tears.

Equally serious, “The Summer Knows” (Michel Legrand/Alan & Marilyn Bergman) arrives in deep pastel. “Sometimes you think a song is just pretty. Then, one day, you really hear it.” Lyrics are reflective, sighs deep; brushes circle. There’s something exalted and luminous about the performance, as if Callaway were ceremonially addressing a goddess. “One last caress…” is rife with resignation.

As the lights come up on Dizzy’s backdrop—the Manhattan skyline—we close with an exuberantly swinging “New York State of Mind” (Billy Joel), a warm-as-they-come, open-armed love song.

Alix Cohen

Alix Cohen’s writing began with poetry, segued into lyrics then took a commercial detour. She now authors pieces about culture/the arts, including reviews and features. A diehard proponent of cabaret, she’s also a theater aficionado, a voting member of Drama Desk, The Drama League and of The NY Press Club in addition to MAC. Currently, Alix writes for Cabaret Scenes, Theater Pizzazz and Woman Around Town. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine and Times Square Chronicles. Alix is the recipient of six New York Press Club Awards.