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Ann Hampton Callaway: Blues in the Night

Singing the blues to express happiness? Such is the inspired theme of this latest disc from the marvelously versatile Ann Hampton Callaway. As Callaway tells it, she was knee-deep in preparation, ready to deliver the standard themes of struggle and heartache that are expected from a nearly all-blues set. Then, proving herself as deft a listener as she is a singer, Callaway started dissecting the selected lyrics and came to the surprising discovery that at the true heart of each was the quest, challenging as it might be, for inner joy. And so from Callaway, who has consistently delighted us for nearly two decades by marching to her own musical drummer, a dozen tracks of bliss-yearning blues.

To set the pace, Callaway joins forces with Sherrie Maricle’s Diva Jazz Orchestra for a hard-boppin’ ride through the self-penned “Swingin’ Away the Blues.” Two other Callaway originals later follow, including the cleverly self-deprecating “The I’m-Too-White-to-Sing-the-Blues Blues” and the distinctly Lambert, Hendricks and Ross-esque “Hip to Be Happy.” Throughout the rest, Callaway’s inherent Jo Stafford-ness invades, adding a piquantly iced smokiness to the likes of “It’s All Right with Me,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most” and a gorgeously tender treatment of Sondheim’s “No One Is Alone.” But Callaway can’t keep her cockeyed optimism entirely in check. Hence the change-of-pace finish-a sun-dappled “The Glory of Love” that could chase away even the meanest blues.

Originally Published