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Ann Hampton Callaway at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola

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Ann Hampton Callaway
Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola
October 23, 2014
New York, NY

On the CD release event for her album Sarah Vaughan Project (Shanachie, 2014)—captured live at this very venue—Ann Hampton Callaway kicked off the set with a very up-tempo take on "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" that swung hard, setting the tone for the evening. She then talked a little about what the show and album were about—honoring "the divine" Sarah Vaughan's legacy. She briefly talked about how Vaughan was reportedly discovered by Billy Eckstine in the early 1940s, and also about her working relationship with Duke Ellington, the cue for "A Night In Tunisia," which she mentioned was recorded by Vaughan as "Interlude." The arrangement was very subtle—drummer Tim Horner played mostly using his bare hands, while pianist Ted Rosenthal took an extended solo.

Callaway delivered every song with great confidence—"Misty" was played in a mellow format, its open spaces giving the lead singer the opportunity to explore her vocal chops. The feeling was the same on Ellington's "In A Mellow Tone," which featured a dexterous bass solo from Dean Johnson, the only one of the set. She got a lot of laughs from the audience during "Whatever Lola Wants," during which she playfully flirted with an audience member. She also acknowledged that 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Jazz At Lincoln Center, and thanked trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (who was in attendance) for his efforts to "keep this music alive."

During a looser moment, Callaway sat at the piano and performed a completely improvised piece that started out with audience members calling out loose words from audience members (words included "colonoscopy," "Texas" and this writer's "commute."). She then began playing a simple chord pattern and made up words based on the suggestions. Rosenthal returned to the piano and they launched into Stephen Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns," which Callaway explained she had heard live during what turned out to be Vaughan's final engagement at New York's Blue Note Jazz Club in 1989, shortly after Vaughan had received the diagnosis of lung cancer that would claim her life the following year. It was a highly emotional song, and Callaway delivered every note with great gusto.

She closed the set with an up-tempo blend of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" and "That's All" in which she did a lot of scatting around the melody, and followed that with a medley that combined Puccini's "Un Bel Di" and "Poor Butterfly," a song reportedly inspired by the classical composer's opera "Madame Butterfly." This was an opportunity to hear Callaway's amazing control and range.

It was a very inspiring set. Callaway has great command of the stage, and communicated well with the audience, explaining the story behind each song and also her own musical background, which she credited to her father's love of jazz records in her native Chicago.

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