If for some reason you still haven’t celebrated Valentine’s Day — and even if you have — a trip to see Ann Hampton Callaway: At Last at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola is definitely in order. The spectacularly romantic view from the 5th floor of the Time Warner Center provides the ideal backdrop for Callaway’s brilliantly conceived and executed show detailing the many moods of love.
In recent years, Callaway has firmly embraced her identity as a jazz singer, and her comfort and confidence with the art form has never been stronger. Here, she and her top-notch trio of musicians — pianist Ted Rosenthal, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Victor Lewis — seem to find the perfect musical mood for every selection, most of which are culled from her new CD At Last.
Not surprisingly, one has to wait until the show’s end for the title tune, which Callaway delivers with extreme passion as a cry of lifelong triumph; but, rest assured, getting there is a delicious journey. The set begins with an exploration of the classics, including a swinging “Lullaby of Birdland,” a commanding “The Best Is Yet to Come,” a sensuous “Lazy Afternoon,” and a beautifully bluesy “Comes Love,” all of which are expertly sung.
She effortlessly switches gears into more contemporary fare halfway through the 70-minute show, starting with one of her own compositions, the poetic “Save A Place for Me.” This lovely ballad is followed by a trio of unusual and unexpectedly sublime choices, a playful take on Joni Mitchell’s “Carey,” arranged by Leonhart (who contributes stellar bass work and vocals), a gorgeously bittersweet version of Stevie Nicks’ “Landslide,” and the Chick Corea-Al Jarreau tongue-twister “Spain,” during which Callaway shows off remarkable vocal dexterity.
And, fear not, the evening finishes as always with an impromptu composition based in part on audience suggestions, a Callaway specialty. (On this evening, she managed to wring a humorous lyric from the concept of “stimulus package.” )
Longtime fans of the singer may miss seeing Callaway behind the piano. And befitting the jazz club milieu, Callaway’s patter is more restrained than in some of her more traditional cabaret outings. Nevertheless, her warmth and sense of humor still come through loud and clear. Indeed, there’s no better cure for the mid-winter blues than this superb show.