Ann Hampton Calloway: Finding Beauty – Originals, Volume 1

Renowned for her treatment of the GAS, the American singer here offers 16 originals, aided by Christian Jacob, Trey Henry, Mitch Forman et al


When I was allocated this album, I anticipated its arrival with more or less pleasure; I had seen Ms. Calloway live on several occasions – once with her sister, the equally talented Liz – chatted with her, and found her to be a fine vocalist, and more than capable of accessing the highways and byways of the Great American Songbook sure-footedly.

When the album finally popped over the transom, I was a tad disappointed to find that all 16 tracks were written entirely by Ann herself (11 of them), or Ann in collaboration with someone else (five). As one who revers the Great American Songbook as a clergyman reveres the King James Bible, I was immediately on the back foot, but then I reminded myself than an essential tool in the workplace of the reviewer is an open mind, and it was in that state that I pressed play.

What jumped out from the very first was the high quality of the lyrics – I have a theory that the finite supply of great melodies has long been exhausted by the titans – Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, et al – leaving slim pickings for the new boys. Even Sondheim struggled to come up with a hummable tune. So it is here, but the lyrics render that academic, sparkling as they do like Carl Fabergé eggs.

On six of the tracks Ann duets with a half dozen friends, including he sister Liz, and in the main these duets enhance the overall pleasure rather than diminishing it. I listened in vain for even a mediocre lyric and it would, I feel, be churlish to single out one from what is a fine assortment. Ms. Calloway is accompanied by a septet of highly accomplished musicians, all of whom, make worthy contributions. Apparently, this labour of love has been three years in the borning, which may well account for the seven recording locations. In sum: a fine album by a fine performer, and one that will, with luck, find its audience.

The Moon Is A Kite; Look For The Love; Forever And A Day; Love And Let Love; Information, Please; You Can’t Rush Spring; Finding Beauty; Revelation; Hold You In This Song; Stealin’ Away; New Eyes; At The Same Time; Wherever You Are; If I Were; Be The Light; Perfect (84.33)
Calloway (v); Christian Jacob, Josh Nelson, Jeff Babko (p, kyb); Ray Brinker (d); Brian Kilgore (pc); Paul Viapiano, Trey Henry (g); Charlie Bisharat (vn); Cecilia Tsan (clo); Mitchel Forman (mel); Kurt Elling, Tierney Sutton, Nikki Harris, Melissa Manchester, Liz Calloway, Jarrett Johnson (vocal duets). Midlothian Grove, Pasadena; Dragonfly Creek, Malibu; 37 St Joseph, Arcadia; Transient Sound, Chicago; Nigel Maestro Productions, Atlanta; Tater Tracks, Croton-on-Hudson; Jim Brady Recording Studios, Tuscon.
Shanachie Entertainment 5510