Singer Ann Hampton Callaway is excited to have the opportunity to pay homage to love songs from the silver screen via her new show "Jazz Goes to the Movies." The cabaret-style performance features songs from Irving Berlin and Herman Hupfeld we well as Ann’s original recordings.

Ann recently discussed this show, her Music, and more via an exclusive interview.

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Movies, singing, and classic films

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you start singing and what was it like to break into the industry?

Ann Hampton Callaway (AHC): I started singing as a little girl growing up with a mom who was a singer, pianist and voice teacher. I studied classically in my teens and considered an opera career. Playing Mame in High School at sixteen was a game changer and I realized theater, jazz, and pop was going to fulfill me the most.

'Jazz Goes To The Movies' is a new performance by jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway. / Image via Ann Hampton Callaway, used with permission.
'Jazz Goes To The Movies' is a new performance by jazz singer Ann Hampton Callaway. / Image via Ann Hampton Callaway, used with permission.

My first paid singing job was in college when I was an acting major. I then sang in a band in Chicago to save money to move to NY. On my third day in NY, I sang at a piano bar, got a standing ovation and the owner promptly hired me-I’ve been singing ever since! Getting to sing with great musicians, fellow singers, and symphony orchestras is a very inspiring way to spend my life. Singing and writing songs is not what I do, it’s who I am.

MM: How did you get into movies and which films are your absolute favorites?

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AHC: Movie contractors who knew my reputation hired me to sing for the soundtracks as they were looking for a more old-school sound in these films. For instance, I got to sing “The Nearness of You” in Queen Latifah’s film “Last Holiday” because I am known for the way I sing classic love songs. A friend, David Perozzi, recommended me to Sasha Lazard who was putting music together for the Alec Baldwin/Demi Moore film “Blind.” I loved writing a French-inspired love song and recording it for the moment they started falling in love.

My favorite film to be involved with was “The Good Shepherd.” When I recorded “Come Rain or Come Shine” for the soundtrack, I bonded so well with director Robert DeNiro, he decided he wanted me to appear in the scene singing the song- what fun that was working with Matt Damon and Angeline Jolie!

MM: Why did the silver screen inspire you so much, especially from a musical perspective?

AHC: Ever since I saw “The Wizard of Oz” as a kid, I fell in love with how movies transported me to other times and places in such a captivating way.

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I loved Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and all the classic movie musicals. Their singing, dancing, rompy wit and incredible songs were a recipe for a lifelong love affair.

Venues, songs, and audiences

MM: How did you put “Jazz Goes To The Movies” together and how did you secure a venue?

AHC: The idea was first intended as a CD that my dear friend and producer Lisa Schiff wanted me to record. She made a list of songs she wanted me to sing and the through-line jumped out at us- almost all of them were movie songs that had become jazz standards.

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So, we continued the list as I worked through them, adding my own suggestion. I always like to perform songs live before I record them so when I was booked into Dizzy’s I decided to try out the songs for that engagement. The response was fabulous. People like Betty Buckley and Michael Feinstein had such glowing words I knew we were headed in the right direction. Then, I was booked at Birdland for 10 shows and thought, let’s do the show there as I’d want to do the CD, fine-tuning the set list and arrangements. After my jazz quartet had mastered the show, a few months later we recorded all the tracks in only one day!

MM: Can you tell us about the original songs you created for “Jazz Goes To The Movies”?

AHC: At On Stage At Kingsborough, there are so many beloved standards I want to do, the only original song I will be doing is making up a Brooklyn romantic movie theme on the spot getting words and phrases from the audience. No improv is alike and this is often the highlight of the show!

MM: What’s your favorite song in this set and what’s coming for you in 2019?

AHC: It’s hard to choose just one favorite but “Over the Rainbow” is the song that seems to have the greatest effect on audiences and the deepest resonance in me. It’s probably the best movie song ever written and speaks to the dreamer in us all.

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