January/February 1998

Ann Hampton Callaway

After Ours, on Denon, is vocalist Ann Hampton Callaway’s first jazz recording. I suspect that if Miles heard her extraordinary version of “All Blues,” he’d probably smile and ask, “Why did you wait so long?” A Chicago native, she came to New York and started singing in cabarets because “there are so few clubs for singers to cut their teeth. But now I’m finally coming home to the music that’s really closest to me.”

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Julie Skarrett

Ann Hampton Callaway

En route to jazz, she became one of New York’s finest singer/songwriters, with 9 MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabaret Artists) awards and the theme to the TV show The Nanny to her credit. Not surprisingly, she has chosen her collaborators wisely, with Kenny Barron and Jay Leonhart at the core of this intimate session.

The recording has a spontaneous, really personal feel, the result of what Callaway describes as “a really in-the-moment approach. In a way, that’s when music is its most alive, when you’re working with great people who are really listening to each other and communicating in the moment.”

Spontaneity is also in the spotlight at her performances, when Callaway creates an instant composition based on audience suggestions. “I take words and phrases and write them down on pieces of paper and as I’m looking up and down the list, my fingers start finding a melody at the piano. For lyrics, I find a character or an image to tell a story and try to rhyme it as much as possible.”

In addition to her vocal improvisations, she’s written over 200 songs as well, including one recently recorded by Barbra Streisand. A winner of the Johnny Mercer award for emerging songwriters, she’s “happy to be getting my songs out there. Writing songs is the way I’ve made sense of my life.”

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