Whoever proffered the career advice "don't let 'em see you sweat" never knew Ann Hampton Callaway. For nearly two decades, the multitalented Chicagoan has willingly-gleefully, even-let the perspiration glow while doing anything and everything necessary to get herself the attention she warrants. Though she's a Tony Award-nominated actress and an ace composer, the world prefers to pigeonhole Callaway as a cabaret singer. Sure, she can deliver an evening of bouncy show tunes, vaguely risque novelties and torchy ballads with the best of them (rivaling even the great Barbara Cook in her ability to lift even the most jaded club crowd to its feet). But as so much of the Callaway canon, including her latest, Slow (her first for Shanachie) so ably demonstrates, she's also a superbly intelligent, singularly creative pop-jazz stylist who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Streisand, Ronstadt, Shirley Horn and Dianne Reeves.
Callaway says Slow is her attempt to invade Johnny Mathis territory by crafting a "classic make-out album." It also pays homage to her musical hero, Carole King, who teamed with Callaway to write "Tonight You're All Mine," a sort of prequel to King's 1971 classic "Will You Love Me Tomorrow?" (also covered here). The Callaway-penned title track, a gentle bossa nova somewhat suggestive of Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind," cleverly examines the desire to escape the noisy insanity of urban life. Two more originals, the blues-tinged "Never Really Mine to Lose" and dreamy "My Answered Prayer" maintain the same hypnotic pace, as does a smoky cover of "Someone to Light Up My Life." Shades of Jo Stafford (always evident on Callaway's recordings) are stronger than ever on "Never Let Me Go" and "You Belong to Me," and there's an enticing hint of Julie London on her "Lullaby in Blue," simmering with pent-up desire. Dazzling as the entire album is, there's a special place in my heart for any teaming of Ann and her sister Liz (if their fab Sibling Revelry isn't part of your CD library, it should be). Here the dynamic Callaway duo unites on a rendition of Van Morrison's "Moondance" so magical I had to stop the disc and hit repeat at least a half-dozen times.