I’ve been listening to Ann Hampton Callaway for a good part of my life now that whenever I see her show, I kind of know what to expect. But I find that she can still surprise me in the best way. 54 Below At Home recently streamed her show ‘The Linda Ronstadt Songbook’ which was filmed from September 2018 and I was very glad they did because I have not seen this particular show of hers. I have always loved her and her singing standards (and her brilliant compositions) but in this show, she sings a lot of pop, even rock and roll , songs and she is just as effective, There’s a lot to mine in Rionstadt’s repertoire, ands she extracted some of the best songs. I loved her vibrant and rocking ‘You’re No Good,’ and she pairs this with the story that Linda used to sing this show live before putting it in one of her albums, and when it became a hit, started a trend of ‘reviving’ old rock and roll songs sung Linda’s way. You appreciate it more as she segues into singing ‘Blue Bayou,’ which of course Linda covers from an old Roy Orbison hit. And some of the best spots on the show is her duet with her friend Billy Stritch (who does great piano duty here) singing Linda’s two famous duets, ‘Don’t Know Much,’ and ‘Somewhere Out There.’ By the time she wrapped the show singing ‘Desperado,’ you realize how great she is honoring the music, and me wanting to listen to Linda’s originals. (It made want to add Linda’s Greatest Hits to my Spotify playlists!)
A new Ann Hampton Callaway album is always a cause for celebration and break out the champagne because ‘Jazz Goes To The Movies’ We always know to expect something great from her, but we are always offered something much much better than what we imagine. Like fine wine, Callaway just gets better and better with vintage, and her voice has gotten deeper, and richer, and more velvety, and more earthy. It’s just always better. She is in fine swinging form in this album, finely accompanied by Ted Rosenthal on piano, Martin Wind on base, Tim Horner on drums and Jimmy Greene on saxophone. You can tell how well they all play off each other, there is a natural camaraderie between all the instruments, including the vocal. And I love all the arrangements – they feel fresh and new without trying too hard to be different. I love the soft and caressing tracks most, like ‘Long Ago and Faraway,’ and any tender version of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is more than fine for me. But she is as engaging on the swing tracks, like in ‘This Can’t be Love’ where she does so much more with some scatting and rhythmic vocal arranging. This is a solid jazz album, but you also experience lyrical expertise here – in every song she tells a story, and you are enraptured.
As everyone who knows me knows, Ann Hampton Callaway is one of my favorite musical artists, and person, ever. And I just discovered that singer Josephine Sanges has recorded a tribute album for her, titled ‘Finding Beauty.’ I don’t know anything about Ms. Sanges, and the bio on her website isn’t much help, but one thing I am certain – she has good taste. In this album, she covers Ann-dards (songs written by Ms. Callaway) as well as some standards that Callaway has recorded.
And they mostly work. Her voice has a different timbre than Callaway, so these sounds sound different. And she chose some of my favorite songs – like ‘I Gaze In Your Eyes,’ and ‘Perfect,’ and ‘Bring Back Romance’ To my ears, the vocal arrangements still sound a little too Ann, and I wish I saw more of Sanges’ personality in those songs, but I won’t complain as much. She certainly knows and understands these songs, and I feel the love. When she does other standards, I kind of get Sanges more – she has imaginative arrangements in songs like ‘Out Of This World,’ and ‘Ding Dong The Witch is Dead,’ and on ‘How High The Moon,’ she scats a la Callaway that is as much a tribute as an original rendition. With that said, after listening to the whole album (multiple times, don’t mind me) I still don’t have a full understand of who Sanges is, but I am looking forward to knowing. With Valentine’s Day coming up, this is the perfect romantic soundtrack to bring back romance in all our lives.