WBGO Radar

Ann Hampton Callaway: From Sassy To Divine

Singer Ann Hampton Callaway

She's a multi-platinum and Tony-nominated singer/songwriter. The accolades are all there. But what I remember is a day at WBGO, years back, when drummer Kenny Washington came in to the station.

Kenny was a bit tired from a club date the night before. When I asked who he was working with, he responded, "Ann Hampton Callaway. She's the REAL DEAL." 

In addition to being one of jazz music's outstanding timekeepers, Kenny is one of the most revered jazz historians anywhere. At that time, he also called himself the "Jazz Maniac" on his once-a-week show on Jazz 88.  

So imagine my curiosity when I get word there's a new Ann Hampton Callaway recording coming. It's a tribute to Sarah Vaughan.

Now I'm very interested, considering Sarah Vaughan was one of the voices folks thought of when the word jazz was lobbed around in conversation.

With From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project, not only was Kenny Washington right on time, but Callaway is blessed. She has the impressive vocal range, depth and emotion to pull it off.

Captured live at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola at Jazz@Lincoln Center in New York, Callaway shares the occasion with top-flight musicians, including pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Dean Johnson, drummer Tim Horner, trumpeter & flugelhornist Randy Sandke and Dick Oatts on saxes and flute.

Over these sixty minutes, we are given timeless hours from what JazzTimes Magazine called " a superbly intelligent, singularly creative stylist."

Those abilities are put to good use here. Sarah treasures like "Misty," "Wave," "Send In The Clowns" and "In A Mellow Tone" are covered in tribute to The Divine One, but done the Calla-way, with delightful results.

Callaway's straigh-on swinger of "Whatever Lola Wants" is a pleasing diversion from Sassy's tango approach, while still showing, as she and her musical friends do throughout, that this is no simple salute CD with the word "tribute" stamped on the cover.

Ann Hampton Callaway commented on the project by saying, "I hope when people hear "The Sarah Vaughan "Project" they feel moved and delighted by the songs and the portrait that unfolds through the music."

Wynton Marsalis, Artistic Director of Jazz@Lincoln Center, recalls the scene:

"Every night Ann Hampton Callaway's performances of Sarah Vaughan's classic songs brought the sold out-crowds at Dizzy's to their feet. Her dynamic, powerful and nuanced voice is matched with a clear devotion to Sarah's music to create a memorable evening of delight. When Ms. Callaway takes the stage, excitement enters the room."

"From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project" comes out September 16th.

See it live when Ann Hampton Callaway returns to Dizzy's on October 23.

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  - Gary Walker, WBGO music director

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