Ann Hampton Callaway makes jazz her way

By FREDERICK M. WINSHIP  |  Oct. 30, 2001 at 1:04 PM
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NEW YORK, Oct. 30 (UPI) -- Frank Sinatra did it "my" way, and one of his biggest fans, Ann Hampton Callaway, does it her way.

Perhaps no other popular singer active today has a more distinctive approach to her material than Callaway, who is as well known as a composer as she is as a singer and recording artist. Currently her talents as an entertainer with an extraordinarily beautiful voice and the ability to reshape the pop/jazz classics to her own sweet style are on display at Feinstein's at the Regency through Nov. 3, her first club appearance in New York in three years.

Performing with pianist Kenny Barron and three backup musicians in a room recently rated by the 2002 Zagat Guide to New York nightlife as the top cabaret venue in the city, Callaway is in her true element of elegance and allure. She is a beautiful woman chicly attired in a timeless black evening suit who doesn't mind being a lady -- your lady -- tonight.

Most of the songs she sings are taken from her upcoming CD, "Signature," which features the signature songs of the great jazz legends, including Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, and Peggy Lee with Barron as accompanist and Wynton Marsalis as guest artist. The recording will be released in February.

Her light, accented style of swing is particularly suited to "The Best Is Yet To Come," an homage to Bennett, "You Turned the Tables on Me," a tribute to Anita O'Day, and "Pick Yourself Up," a salute to Mel Torme. When honoring Sinatra with "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," her treatment is more introspective.

Other signature numbers she offers are Nat King Cole's nostalgic "Route 66," Vaughan's "Tenderly," Ella Fitzgerald's offbeat "Mr. Paganini," Billie Holiday's deeply felt "Good Morning Heartache," Annie Ross' "Twisted," Ray Charles' "For All You Know," and her own version of the Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer classic, "Blues in the Night," in which she demonstrates that she can belt out a song with the best of the belters.

She performed "Blues in the Night" in the recent Broadway musical, "Swing," in a knockout performance that won her a Tony Award nomination for best actress in a musical and the Theater World Award for outstanding Broadway debut. At the moment she is working on several songwriting projects for Broadway and film.

Callaway is the winner of ASCAP's prestigious Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award for her many compositions including "A Nanny Named Fran" that she wrote for the CBS television series, "The Nanny." She is the only composer to have collaborated with Cole Porter, having set her music to his posthumously discovered lyric, "I Gaze In Your Eyes," recorded for the Cole Porter Revisited series.

She recently starred in "Midnight Swing" for the Public Service Television special, "Live from Lincoln Center," and will have her own radio show on the new Sirius Satellite Network beginning in December. She is also working on her own national musical/variety television show, slated to debut in February.

Callaway is particularly associated with Barbra Streisand. Her composition, "At the Same Time" was recorded by Streisand for her CD, "Higher Ground," and Streisand asked Callaway to write lyrics to a Rolf Lovland melody which is titled "I've Dreamed of You." It was sung by Streisand to James Brolin at their wedding and recorded for Streisand's CD "A Love Like Ours."

Streisand asked Callaway to write a new Christmas song, "A Christmas Lullaby" that was recorded for Stresan's new holiday CD, "Christmas Memories," released this week. Callaway also has written a new patriotic anthem inspired by the events of Sept. 11 titled "I Believe in America." She is performing it for the first time at Feinstein's at the Regency.

Callaway is a native of Chicago, the daughter of former CBS news correspondent John Callaway and a prominent Broadway vocal coach, Ann Callaway. She is the sister of singer Liz Callaway and has performed in tandem with her in their own original musical, "Sibling Revelry" in London. The show has been recorded by DRG.

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