Jazz Vocals

Anything But Standard


Ann Hampton Callaway's third Telarc release, At Last, feels like a very satisfying set at an intimate jazz club. Jazz standards sprinkled with revamped pop covers and a few originals, plus arrangements that give the all-star band ample blowing room, recreate the relaxed atmosphere of a live performance.

The opener, "What Is This Thing Called Love?," for example, features not only piano and bass solos and a piano/voice soli section, but Callaway "trades fours" with the drummer. It's unusual for a vocalist to share the spotlight with her rhythm section right out of the gate. Speaking of spotlights, she pays faithful homage to Sarah Vaughan in her scat solo.

Trombonist Wycliffe Gordon has fun with his solo on a sultry "Comes Love," playfully full of New Orleans-style growls, barks and cries. Trumpeter Marvin Stamm and saxophonist Teodross Avery also make appearances, as does violinist Mads Tolling of the Turtle Island Quartet.

I'm loving the interesting ways post-boomers are integrating the pop and rock songs of their youth into a jazz format. Callaway includes two -- Joni Mitchell's "Carey" gets a slower, swinging treatment and her version of Stevie Nicks' "Landslide" has given me a new appreciation of the lyrics. Whether it's the ballad tempo or Callaway's careful enunciation, I just never got that song until now.

in this playlist.