Ann Hampton Callaway, "Ella Century," at Birdland - New York City Article
Through Saturday (April 22)
Few contemporary singer-entertainers are as well equipped to address the amazing legacy of Ella Fitzgerald as Ann Hampton Callaway, who combines a lovely honey-tinged contralto with the improvisatory skills of a master jazz musician. (Her centennial salute to the First Lady of song is additionally empowered by the piano work of Matt Baker, himself an acolyte of Oscar Peterson, who, among many other things, was Fitzgerald’s most famous keyboard collaborator.) In song and anecdote, she guides us through the broad outlines of one of the most remarkable careers in music, from Fitzgerald’s dysfunctional childhood to her big band breakthrough and, ultimately, her glory years as one of the definitive singers of what she helped establish as the Great American Songbook. Because Fitzgerald was also an outstanding duet partner, Miss Callaway takes the opportunity to cross cadenzas with her sidemen, singing “Moonlight in Vermont” (in honor of Fitzgerald’s TV appearances with Frank Sinatra) with Mr. Baker and “A Fine Romance” (a la her classic albums with Louis Armstrong) with trumpeter Benny Benack. From the opening “Oh, Lady Be Good” to the encore of “Mack the Knife” (recalling Fitzgerald’s masterpiece concert album from Berlin, 1960) this is as fine an Ella-Bration as we are likely to get in this centennial year.
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)