With the passing of Jo Stafford last year, it’s tempting to suggest that the spirit of Stafford’s colossal legacy has been channeled into Ann Hampton Callaway’s latest collection of covers and originals. Truthfully, though, Callaway has always mirrored Stafford’s power and majesty, echoing that same unique ability to travel effortlessly from ice-cool to tropically hot, and from blasé to fevered.
Callaway says Ella Fitzgerald taught her by example that if you want to be great you’ve got to surround yourself with greatness. So to lift these 11 tracks to lofty heights, Callaway assembled an exalted trio comprising pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Victor Lewis, augmented by a half-dozen equally exquisite craftsmen, including guitarist Rodney Jones and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon.
Together they journey from the breezy restlessness of Joni Mitchell’s “Carey” and hazy satisfaction of “Lazy Afternoon” to the vibrant, fiery, lovelorn plains of Chick Corea’s “Spain,” the shifting emotional tides of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide” and the wistful yearning of “Over the Rainbow” like a fine-fitted schooner, trimmed in gleaming brass and burnished mahogany, skillfully navigating all climes and seas.