THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Diva Power – Ann Hampton Callaway Salutes Great Ladies of Song
Crazy Coqs at Brasserie Zedel, Sherwood St, London
While younger sister Liz is very much a theatre animal, Ann is the jazz diva. A successful composer in her own right she is a gifted jazz pianist and accompanies herself with such effortless ease you forget who is playing.
Like a great wine, her voice has got richer with age. A gorgeously extravagant instrument, her voice has astonishing range, masterful control and glorious colors. She has a true jazz artist's ability to swing or scat and her interpretations of lyrics are always thoughtful, inventive and disciplined. She can swing with confidence yet she never allows the musicality of the jazz to crowd out the lyrics.
On paper this evening's song list might appear unadventurous, until you hear what she can do with the standards made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Peggy Lee, Cleo Laine, Edith Piaf and Etta James right up to Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Barbra Streisand. Her talent is such that King has collaborated with her and she has also written a number of songs for the incredibly picky Ms Streisand.
She gave us two devilish imitations of Holiday's God Bless The Child and Vaughan's Misty which few could match, but then moved on to give us her own personal take on various standards. All of Me and Ain't Misbehavin' had a curiously funky 70s vibe which worked beautifully and led us neatly to King's You've Got a Friend and a rendition of Mitchell's A Case of You which could have drawn tears from a stone.
Ever inventive in her breezy wish to cheer us she took a break to improvise a whole new song, using fragments of ideas from an audience member and she even stooped to an audience singalong, but thankfully, not for too long.
Her vast experience as an entertainer is obvious and audiences warm to her, not just for the great sound she can make but because she is erudite and witty and her devotion to the material shines through. An unaccompanied encore of Over the Rainbow was simply heart stopping and revealed the endearingly romantic sensibility beneath the polished Manhattan exterior.