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Ann Hampton Callaway: Jazz Goes to the Movies (Shanachie)

Review of the singer's take on venerable standards with filmic links

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Cover of Ann Hampton Callaway album Jazz Goes to the Movies
Cover of Ann Hampton Callaway album Jazz Goes to the Movies

Listening to Ann Hampton Callaway, who, at 60, sounds richer and more lustrous than ever, it’s hard not to be reminded of Jo Stafford. The same bell-like clarity, natural warmth, impeccable phrasing, and keen interpretive savvy shine through. The intended theme here is songs from the movies, and while only five of the 14 selections were actually written for films, all have significant cinematic connections. More essentially, Jazz Goes to the Movies is a gorgeous collection of gilt-edged standards—Porter, Berlin, Mercer, Kern, Arlen, Carmichael, Duke, the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hart—the oldest dating to 1926, the newest to 1950. Pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Martin Wind, drummer Tim Horner, and saxophonist Jimmy Greene provide stellar accompaniment.

Callaway favors straight-ahead readings on several tracks, all dotted with inventive touches, including tender treatments of “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” “The Nearness of You” and “Long Ago and Far Away,” a breezy “Taking a Chance on Love,” dreamy “The Way You Look Tonight,” and feverish “From This Moment On.” She winningly transforms the opener, “’S Wonderful,” into a featherlight bossa and, with equal keenness, reimagines “As Time Goes By,” “This Time the Dream’s on Me,” and “How Little We Know” (originally, sultrily introduced by Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not) as lithe, mid-tempo swingers. Most intriguing are Callaway’s takes on “Blue Skies,” dawning like a shimmering sunrise before opening up to glowing intensity, and, with its slightly offbeat cadence, her scat-dusted “This Can’t Be Love.”

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