There are so many perspectives from which to view Ann Hampton Callaway's vocal arsenal that I decided that I would take advantage of a Florida book tour stop I was making and catch her appearance at the Royal room of the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach. By skipping her CD launch party at Dizzy's (from where I would normally write this review) and attend one in entirely different demographic, I thought I might get some new angles that might be critically useful.
At the Colony, she was appearing with a duo in contradistinction to the gig at Dizzy's where she used drummer Victor Lewis. The Royal room is a posh, diminutive dining lounge (with an excellent staff and bonne table) and the accompaniment of pianist Ted Rosenthal and bassist Jay Leonhart was more than adequate for the setting. After opening with "Lullaby of Birdland" which initiated an evening of great trades with her cohorts, she launched into selections from the new CD At Last (Telarc) while referencing the "Callaway virgins" in her patter. She thus instantly reconnected with an audience who had obviously seen her before at the Royal room and had become idolators. This intimacy with the select audience would not have worked in the context of the cosmopolitans in New York.
In "What is this thing called Love?" she scatted articulately and the absence of the horns and rhythmists that she had employed on the CD was not missed. Two numbers that followed epitomized the imprimatur of her career thus far; she has steadfastly sought daring musical challenges and this set was not an exception. By selecting Chick Corea's "Spain," a rigorous vocal exercise, and employing very innovative phrasing, she achieved much. And by introducing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" with a titillating a cappela chorus and a healthy portion of remelodization, she added another notch to her gun.
She concluded with "At Last" and valiantly invited comparisons to the rendition of a tune which has been recorded successfully by hordes of superstars. The brilliance of Rosenthal and Leonhart in all of this cannot be overstated.
Watching and listening to Ann Hampton Callaway in a "foreign venue" far distant from her Gotham haunts was predictably rewarding because the suspicion has always been that her talent far transcends the legendary settings where we usually see her. She continues to hold the bar very high in her quest to offer greater aesthetics when she records and performs.