Vail Jazz: Singer Ann Hampton Callaway answers 7
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado — You could call her the “keeper-of-the-flame of the great American songbook.” Singer Ann Hampton Callaway upholds the canon by writing songs with Cole Porter, Carole King, Barbara Carroll and others. She’s even performed tributes to Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee and Harold Arlen in Carnegie Hall. Callaway returns to Vail for the annual Labor Day Jazz Party this weekend.
Read on to learn who the one woman in the world is that intimidates her, why she first fell in love with jazz and what recent family tragedy has taken her singing to new heights.
Vail Daily: What made you want to return to the Vail Jazz Party this year?
Ann Hampton Callaway: I had such a great time, it’s a wonderful community. I love Howard Stone and what he presents. Not only is it fun to perform there, it’s a very relaxed, very jazz-friendly, warm nvivorment. it’s always a great treasure to share the bill with artists you love. Hanging out with Benny Green and John Clayton, it’ll be inspiring.
I like being around a community of people in a concentrated period of time and you can experience and share and get to know the people who love this music and get to know the artists, it reallly builds wonderful repoire.
VD: What will you be performing here in Vail?
AC: I have several opportunities to do shows, I’m going to be celebrating my latest CD, “At Last,” and I’ll probably be doing a few songs from that CD at each show. And I’ll be doing the greatest American standards and original songs. It’s kind of a best-of Ann Hampton Calliway weekend. I’m still making up my mind about exactly about what I want to sing and I’ll probably change my mind right before I go on, that’s the spirit of Jazz. But one thing audiences have enjoyed… is the improvisation that happens at the end of each show.
VD: What have you been working on recently?
AC: I had a very exciting concert with the Marciac Jazz Festival, sang for 4,000 people with the Barcelona Jazz Orchestra. I’ve done a lot of work with big bands over the last year and a half and that’s been fun. I’m getting ready to do some symphony shows in the new year.
My father passed away, so this summer has really been a time of mourning, It was an unexpected passing so what I thought would be a summer of songwriting turned into a summer of very powerful emotions and dealing with his estate. … I’m sure it’ll change me as a singer. When I sang “Over the Rainbow” in France it was the first time I’d sang anything since my father had passed away and 4,000 French people didn’t stop clapping and I thought maybe something is happening. Maybe there’s a gift in the sadness you feel when you lose someone you love that it makes you go deeper as a singer.
VD: Out of the long list of people you’ve performed and recorded with over the years, who stands out?
AC: Definitely Barbara Streisand. Of all the singers I’ve worked with, she’s probably the most powerful entity, in terms of her talent and her personality. I’m at ease with just about anybody on the planet but I’m still intimidated by Barbara. I’m really excited she’s releasing a new album. It’s something I’ve been wanting her to do for years.
VD: Anyone else?
AC: I’ve worked with so many great people… I loved recording with Carole King, that was one of the thrills of my life. She inspired me to be a singer/songwriter. I had the audacity to ask if she would write a song with me for a CD and she actually said yes. And she decided that since she knew I was spontaneous and she liked being spontaneous, that she didn’t want to write the song until the day of the recording. So we got into the studio at 11 and by 2 we had the song finished. She stayed and did backup vocals. It was such an incredibly generous act for her to be there and it touched my heart deeply. That’s what I love about music, it puts you together with so many people you wouldn’t neccesarily think you would meet.
VD: How did your love of jazz come about?
AC: It was hard not to fall in love with jazz with a father who played every great jazz artist who was out when I was a little girl. He used to go to a wonderful bar – he worked for CBS radio back in the day-and as a young reporter he’d go to this bar Figaro’s in Chicago to unwind. It was there he fell in love with Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Holiday. When he got enough money from his small salary, he’d buy albums and play them. Of course I was a diva from day one and couldn’t stand going to bed early. I would lay in bed listening to these great songs and singers and be completely enchanted by them.
VD: What was it about the music that appealed to you?
AC: The spriit of spontaneity and the harmonic beauty, and the elegance of the music. I always felt like I was born at the wrong time. A lot of the music my peers were listening to held no interest for me, except for the singer/songwriters. I always liked to be challenged and emotionally engaged in a way that isn’t just about a beat. Jazz has always spoken to me.
High Life editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or email@example.com.
What: Ann Hampton Callaway at the Vail Jazz Party
When: See full schedule pages B1/B2
Cost: $45/afternoon, $55/evening, $350 for an event pass
More information: Call 970-479-6146 or visit http://www.vailjazz.org