Review: ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY at Le Son de la Terre

Ann Hampton Callaway's "Sirens of Swing"

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY at Le Son de la Terre

For two electrifying nights at the new luxurious venue Le Son de La Terre, on a barge of the Seine facing Nôtre Dame cathedral, the great Ann Hampton Callaway made her long-due Parisian début with Sirens of Swing, paying tribute to the unforgettable divas of jazz, backed by Hervé Sellin—with whom she already toured Europe—at the piano, Kim Baiunco on the bass, and Emilian Ducret—whom she just met but of whom she says, “love at first note”—on the drums.  Ann, with some guests from abroad, treated the loving Parisian audience to two sets of 45 minutes, a kind of “best of” of her CD diva tributes. 

Review: ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY at Le Son de la Terre Starting with Cole Porter’s “From This Moment On,” originally cut from Out of this World but inserted into the movie version of Kiss Me Kate, she paid tribute to the great Lean Horne—movie star at MGM, singer, and political activist (a role model for Ann during her childhood)—followed by irresistible vocal impersonations of Billie Holiday (“God Bless the Child”) and Sarah Vaughan (“Tenderly”). 

“How High the Moon” from Ann’s best-selling Ella Fitzgerald album and “Love Me or Leave Me,” an homage to Nina Simone, whose career ended at the quai of Les Trois Maillets a few steps from the venue, were perfect choices for Callaway uninitiates among the French audience.  “You Turned the Tables on Me,” honoring the underrated Anita O’Day, led on to a spectacular rendition of Etta James’s “At Last,” closing the first set. 

A wonderful special solo arrangement of “Body and Soul” by Sellin at the piano opened the second set, in which Ann turned to white jazz divas, starting with Chris Connor (“Lullaby of Birdland”), Julie London (“Cry Me a River”), a lovely arrangement of Rodger’s and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love,” which Doris Day sang in the movie Billy Rose, Jumbo, and the unforgettable Peggy Lee (a moving “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” the bluesy “Black Coffee,” and as an encore “The Glory of Love”).  Ann has a special connection to Peggy Lee, having recorded a whole album and having toured with her, as well as performing in a special concert celebrating Lee’s music, with Lee's granddaughter as a special guest.  Piaff (“La Vie en Rose”), with Ann herself at the piano, was of course a fitting finale, with a reference to Josephine Baker, another American who won the hearts of Parisians, just as Ann did for two wonderful nights, which we hope won’t be her last in Paris.

Ann has a way of finding new depths to even the most familiar songs, exerting a warmth that we really needed in this wintry and troubled season. Her voice is like a massage for the soul, and her French patter added a nice sprinkle of comic relief. Wishing that this visit becomes at the very least a yearly occurrence.