Ann Hampton Callaway

Ann Hampton Callaway

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At first, she may remind you of Barbra Streisand, but only when Streisand's voice is still in first gear. Unlike Streisand, who soon takes off for the stratosphere, when Ann Hampton Callaway revs her voice up, she reveals a husky alto that occasionally bridges into the soprano range and that suggests, among female singers, Sarah Vaughan's plush tones, but, more than anyone else, the "velvet fog" sound of Mel Tormé. She emphasizes those jazz-pop antecedents by recording a collection mostly consisting of standards as her first album, with basically a piano-bass-drums backup. At times, notably on "I've Got the World on a String" and "All the Things You Are," the performances cross over into outright jazz; Callaway even mimics a trumpet to duet with trumpeter Cecil Bridgewater on the former. But she possesses a songwriter's concern with lyrics that belies the jazz connection and renews the emotional impact of songs like Irving Berlin's "How Deep Is the Ocean" and the Gershwins' "Our Love Is Here to Stay" (although she gets more out of lesser-known tunes like Burton Lane and Alan Jay Lerner's "Too Late Now" and Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster's "A Time for Love.") Effective as that voice is, it is also highly considered; this daughter of a vocal coach is remembering her lessons and not quite letting go just yet. She opens the album with her musical setting of the Cole Porter lyric "I Gaze in Your Eyes," an unusually direct love song for Porter, and concludes with her own "Perfect," making you wish that she'd devote an album to her own compositions some time. As it is, Ann Hampton Callaway is the debut of a distinctive and promising singer. (Cassette copies of the album do not contain the tracks "My Romance" and "Lush Life.")

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