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Ann Hampton Callaway at Birdland

Tyran Grillo By

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Ann Hampton Callaway
Birdland
New York, NY
November 1, 2017

In her iconic theme song for The Nanny, Ann Hampton Callaway quips: "She's the lady in red when everybody else in wearing tan." And while Callaway wasn't dressed in red when she graced Birdland on 1 November 2017, she did stand out with equal vividness at a whitewashed historical moment. Backed by Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on bass, Tim Horner on drums, and Jimmy Greene on reeds, she presented a program entitled "Jazz Goes to the Movies," subject of a soon-to-be-recorded CD. Referencing such classics as Casablanca, Follow the Fleet, and An American in Paris, she evoked faraway locations, silver screen legends, and bygone eras with her consummate artistry.

Callaway is a diva in the least pretentious sense of the word, a performer who welcomes the audience into her embrace with the warmest of vocal colors. Even before she took to the stage, while her band played a glossy rendition of "Shadow of Your Smile," the depth of her love for life in its full spectrum was apparent—and even more so when she buttered the room with "As Time Goes By." Her talents were at their brightest in a superbly arranged "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and their sultriest in "The Nearness of You," which along with "The Way You Look Tonight" unraveled with emotional integrity. And during her rendition of "Long Ago and Far Away," accompanied only by Rosenthal at the keys, even the shadows swayed in time.

The upbeat numbers were prime vehicles for her instrumentalists. Greene and Rosenthal balanced technical flourish and sensitivity, while Wind and Horner each kept one hand in the pocket throughout the set. As a quintet, they and Callaway soared through "Blues Skies" and "S Wonderful" with the carefree beauty of windblown leaves in fall. Like the subject of "This Can't be Love," the evening's heart beat loudly and happily, grateful for the possibility that all might change for the better.

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