Posts

7 things to know about Ann Hampton Callaway

Yes, she’s a songwriter, singer, composer, actress and pianist, but there’s more …

Having juggled singing, song writing and acting throughout her storied career, it makes sense that Ann Hampton Callaway would dedicate an album to some of her favorite (well … everyone’s favorite) tunes from classic motion pictures.

Jazz Goes to the Movies, Callaway’s 16th studio album, pays homage to hits like “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca, “The Way You Look Tonight” from Swing Time, “S wonderful” from An American in Paris and “Blue Skies” from The Jazz Singer.

Her live performances often also feature jazz tunes Callaway herself has sung on film soundtracks: “Come Rain or Come Shine” from The Good Shepherd, “The Nearness of You,” from Last Holiday and “Pourquoi,” an original song she wrote for Blind.

As a Theatre World Award and New York Cabaret Award winner, plus a Tony Award nominee, Callaway says the fusion of music and film has “enchanted” her all of her life. In kind, the multi-talented artist has been enchanting audiences for decades with her rich vocal delivery of originals, Great American Songbook classics and theater, film and TV numbers. Having composed and performed hundreds of songs for everyone from Barbra Streisand to Robert De Niro, Callaway returns to Vail on July 24 and 25. She’s bringing “Jazz Goes to the Movies.”

Here are a few things that set Callaway apart from other artists:

1) She views The Great American Songbook as the soundtrack of her life.

“These songs came in a golden age of writers who were writing mostly for Broadway and film. So they were writing for real situations, songs that had to advance the plot of a character in a timely, important, universal situation. I feel like these songs become more beautiful with time. They’ve become to me the things that understand us better than each other sometimes. They give me great comfort and I’ve learned a lot about life through them.”

2) She presents each song like a story.

My musical approach begins with the story and the lyric and where I’m going to be singing it – with a symphony orchestra, in a jazz club, in a foreign country. Usually the feeling I get from a story, from the words, dictate what I do with it. Since we’ve heard so many renditions of the [same] songs by great artists, to me it’s important to help people not take the words for granted and not take the story for granted. When my sister and I were putting our show Boom! together and songs from the 60s and 70s, people were so used to singing along that they didn’t even think about them any more. We had fun finding ways to articulate the lyric in a way that people felt moved by it.”

3) She feels extra inspired when she performs in Vail.

I just love the people. I love how much they love this music. It’s a great community of people who have come to support jazz. The beauty of the mountains inspires my performance, even though it’s harder to sing because of the oxygen situation. I usually take a couple hits of oxygen before I go on stage.”

4) Her personal play list runs the gamut.

“I have a very eclectic record collection. I listen to jazz. I love Brazilian music. I listen to a lot of instrumental music, singer/songwriters, some of the old songs I grew up with – Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor …. I’m broadening my list all the time.”

5) She always aims to surprise.

“When I perform, I want every song to be something I can’t wait to sing. If I’m going to sing a love song, I want it to be one of the most beautiful, powerful love songs anyone has ever heard. I want it to surprise people a little bit. I want people to feel brand new when they leave a night of music … refreshed and human all over again.”

 6) Being all of the things – songwriter, singer, actress and composer – makes her feel complete.

“I think my dad once told me that if you want to live a happy, fulfilling life the more you can combine all the things you’re good at, the happier you will be. I think that’s what’s been especially rewarding about my career. I’ve been able to interpret music, create music and my philosophical side as a person, my humorous, silly side, the side that wants to enter different personalities … all of these interests lend themselves to a career in music. Singing has been the most natural, but writing is how I think. Acting to me – I was an acting major – it’s been a great part of my foundation as a singer to step into a story of a song and make it come alive. All of these parts of me are important.”

7) She made her surprise feature film debut in Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd.

First of all, I didn’t expect to be in the movie. I thought I was just going to be on the soundtrack. Working with Robert de Niro recording the song, he directed me in every take and I did a large amount of takes because he’s so meticulous. We had fun in the green room talking about The Great American Songbook. When I got the call the next day that he wanted me in the movie, I was just beside myself. I loved working on the set with Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie. Robert de Niro insisted I call him ‘Bob.’ He took a special moment to introduce me to the stars.

Ann Hampton Callaway’s “Jazz Goes to the Movies”

Vail Jazz Club Series

July 24

Ann Hampton Callaway returns to Vail to present silver screen song favorites in two intimate shows at The Sonnenalp’s Ludwig’s Terrace on Wednesday, July 24. Doors for the first seating open at 5 p.m. with performance beginning at 5:30 (Get tickets for 5:30 performance here). Doors for the second seating are at 7:30 p.m. with music starting at 8 p.m (Get tickets for 8 p.m. performance here). Tickets at $40. Full dinner service is available, not included in ticket cost and a $30 per person food or beverage minimum applies.

 

Vail Jazz @ Vail Square

July 25

The “Jazz Goes to the Movies” golden age tunes hit the big stage inside the all-weather Jazz Tent at Lionshead’s Vail Square at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 25. Tickets are $25 for general admission, $40 for preferred seat and $50 for premium seat (Get tickets here). Beer, wine and cocktails are available for purchase.

 

 

Howard Stone: Jazz and The Movies

The 1927 film, The Jazz Singer, was the first feature-length (not a short) “talkie” (a film with synchronized speech, singing, instrumental score and sound effects). While the title suggests that it was about a jazz crooner, the story is about a young man who wants to sing pop music instead of following in his father’s footsteps as a cantor. The film was a great commercial success, which revolutionized entertainment. By the end of the decade, 50 percent of the U.S. populace went to the movies weekly. Unfortunately, Hollywood’s track record when depicting the world of jazz has not been very good, as most films have relied on clichés and commercial themes that have strayed from reality. Periodically though, filmmakers have captured the essence of the music and the musicians. Forest Whitaker‘s portrayal of Charlie Parker in Bird and jazz saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s Oscar-nominated role in ’Round Midnight were thoughtful explorations of the jazz life.

Howard Stone.

In the past few years, two jazz-themed movies – Green Book (2018) and La La Land (2016) have taken home Oscars for Best Picture and in 2014, JK Simmons won an Oscar for his performance as a demonic jazz educator in Whiplash. While winning critical acclaim and box office success, many in the jazz community were less than pleased with these offerings. The most recent jazz film, Bolden, was panned by the critics and failed at the box office as well. On the other hand, there have been some wonderful documentary films about jazz in the last several years. Keep On Keepin’ On, I Called Him Morgan, Chasing Trane and What Happened, Miss Simone? are a few noteworthy offerings.

So, while in recent years some filmmakers have done a better job depicting the world of jazz, it hasn’t been films about jazz (or even jazz soundtracks) that have been that important to the art form. Instead, it has been the music in movies that has had an outsized impact on jazz. A little history is in order. The explosion in popularity of the cinema in the 1920s through the 1950s (when television viewing began to skyrocket and attendance at movie theaters began to decline) coincided with the period when composers and lyricists began writing songs that became known as “The Great American Songbook.” Many of these songs were written for the movies and even when they were first performed on Broadway, found their way into the movies, where the audiences were much larger. It was a time when the likes of Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen, to name just a few, were writing the songs that jazz performers embraced and have been performing ever since, to the point that these songs are now “jazz standards.”

In 2004, the American Film Institute published its poll of the “100 Greatest Songs In American Movies,” Topping the list was “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz (1939), with “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (1942) next. On July 24 at the Sonnenalp Hotel (get tickets here) and again on July 25 at the Jazz Tent in Lionshead (get tickets here), Vail Jazz will present the great Ann Hampton Callaway, performing those two jazz classics and many more as she takes the audience on a walk down memory lane in her show entitled “Jazz Goes To The Movies.” I hope to see you all at these shows. As the character Sam (Humphrey Bogart) said in Casablanca … “here’s looking at you, kid.”

Howard Stone is the Founder and Artistic Director of Vail Jazz, the presenter of the annual Vail Jazz Festival. This summer Vail Jazz is celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season with performances by internationally renowned artists in multiple venues throughout the Vail Valley. In addition, Vail Jazz presents throughout the year jazz educational programs with a special focus on young musicians and young audiences. Many of Vail Jazz’s performances and educational programs are presented free of charge.