Jun 19, 2009

A larger version of this picture of the lovely Ann Hampton Calloway can be found here.

I’d never heard of Ann Hampton Calloway before I bought this CD, but she’s evidently been around for a few years. She sang the opening song on The Nanny (1993-99), which I never watched.

One thing that I found interesting is that in the liner notes she says that when she was performing in the show Swing, she had to get past the notion that a person of her skin color had no business singing the blues. Now, just wait a minute, does this mean that only black people feel pain, longing, loss, betrayal, despair? Come on, it was the whitest of white people that gave us the word that so neatly conveys the depth of anxiety and despair that is part of the blues. Can anything convey that more than the word angst, just saying it practically causes the emotion. Miss Calloway is 50, so she’s a late boomer, and grew up in a Chicago where the racial politics, which gave us Jeremiah Wright and associate, was in full swing. There’s a story that somebody said that Dave Brubeck shouldn’t play jazz because he was white. A fellow musician, black, rebuked him by calling Dave his son. I don’t recall that any white person ever said that Kathleen Battle or Denyce Graves shouldn’t do opera because they’re black.

Music might originate among blacks, or whites, or purples and greens, but at a certain point it becomes a common property, and open to all.

She has a very strong, pure voice. The songs on the CD are blues with an orchestral background. So the arrangements are more big band, and more heavily produced than the CDs of people like Mississippi John Hurt, or Lonnie Johnson.

Her performance is not as raw and gritty as Hurt’s, nor is it as rocking as a Debbie Davies or a Sue Foley, but it does convey emotion and depth of feeling. She even shows a bit of humor too in a song titled The I’m Too White to Sing the Blues, Blues. Here she reflects on the deficiencies, a happy family, sobriety, and other things, that should keep her from singing the blues.

Overall an enjoyable album from a lady with a superb voice.