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May 2002

Ann Hampton Callaway
Signature
N-Coded Music

When it comes to New Yorkers with style and sass, it doesn't get much better than Ann Hampton Callaway. On Signature (N-Coded Music; 50:28), the venerable cabaret star maintains her affection for concept albums, assembling 12 classic tracks that were signature tunes for Sarah Vaughan, Louis Armstrong, Peggy Lee and others she admires. Ironically, Callaway does not include the singer she resembles most, Jo Stafford, among the honorees. Never before has she sounded more like Stafford, right down to the iciness that too often invaded Jo's ballads. Such frostiness is evident on "Tenderly," and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning," but the balance of the album is marvelous enough to melt any further worries. Especially fine are Callaway's vigorous workouts with the New York Voices on "Route 66" and "Twisted," and her sublime pairing with Freddy Cole on "For All We Know," which effectively echoes the diamonds-and-rust dynamism of the definitive Betty Carter-Ray Charles version.

Originally published in May 2002
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