Ann Hampton Callaway’s show ‘The Ella Century’ has been a hit in theaters and with symphonies, now audiences can enjoy her up close in her one woman performance at PizzaExpress Jazz Club on June 12th-13th. Back by popular demand, Callaway shares an exciting evening in Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial year full of timeless classics and thoughtful stories.
Tell us about Pizza Express Live, what can audiences expect when they come along?
On June 12-13 I am bringing my award winning show “The Ella Century” to Pizza Express Jazz Club on Dean Street. London audiences have shown great affection for my one-woman shows through the years, where I play piano, sing and tell stories in a very intimate and spontaneous way. This tribute to my inspiration, the great Ella Fitzgerald, is a lovingly crafted show with my own arrangements of Ella classics put into very personal settings as we traverse through the journey of Ella’s evolution from shy girl from Newport News, Virginia to world famous star and jazz icon. Highlights include Lady Be Good, Mr. Paganini, How High the Moon and Every Time We Say Goodbye. And I will be making up an Ella-esque song on the spot with audience suggestions. Expect an uplifting and moving night of beloved standards.
Then June 14-16 I am singing a brand new show at The Pheasantry with brilliant pals and fellow singer-songwriters, Amanda McBroom and Michele Brourman, who accompanies us at the keys. We do a fresh batch of standards, “Ann-dards” and “Amanda-rds.” As the three of us are recipients of The Johnny Mercer Songwriting Award, we came up with a delicious 14 song Mercer Medley we can’t wait to unveil. I’m doing some songs from my upcoming CD “Jazz Goes to the Movies” as well as the song I composed to a Cole Porter lyric, “I Gaze In Your Eyes.” Amanda is doing some of her genius original songs and we will likely premiere our brand new original piece, “Why Do They Call It the Blues?” Michele is featured in a solo spot where she will sing her original classic “My Favorite Year,” one of the most touching love songs you will ever hear. Sharing the stage with these beloved women is always a thrill.
How did you get involved with Pizza Express Live?
The fabulous Ruth Leon is presenting us in her cabaret series. We adore her and are so honored that she keeps bring us back for more festive fun on her stages.
What are you most looking forward to about performing in The UK?
I love London audiences. They are sophisticated, devoted lovers of this music and really “get it.” Through the years we have made many important friends on this side of the pond and cherish our time together. It’s always a joy to perform for artists we admire and we looking forward to having Ria Jones, Simon Jones (no relation) Ann Mitchell and other performers in the house to inspire us.
How did you get into performing as a career?
When I was born, the doctor didn’t say, “it’s a girl” he said, “It’s a baby diva!” So it seemed natural that a few days after moving to NY from Chicago, I got a singing job and I’ve been singing ever since. Coming from a musical family with a singer/pianist/voice teacher for a mom and a jazz loving/scat singing journalist for a dad- the “designer genes” pointed my sister Liz and me to our destiny.
I used to love watching The Nanny, tell us how you became involved with the bridal shop reject from Flushing, Queens?
Fran Drescher came to my show of original music at the NY club Don’t Tell Mama many years ago and afterwards told me she wanted me to write songs for her TV projects. A few songs later, The Nanny pilot came along and I wrote two songs for it. So happy she chose one of mine out of the many submissions from well known Hollywood writers. The added perk was to get to sing the song and use my sister Liz for the back up vocals. Who knew it would become what my accountant calls, “My finest work to date?”
Do you prefer performing or composing?
Performing is the heart and soul of who I am. But writing shares a significant part of me- how I see the world, what matters to me, how I love, what I care about. I need both in my life to have a fulfilled daily existence.
What Pizza Express pizza topping are you looking forward to trying out while you’re here?
If only. I am on Weight Watchers Freestyle and pizza is not on my list of foods I eat these days. 35 pounds lighter, I am looking forward to bringing a more svelte Ann to my London audiences. But I will live vicariously, have no doubt!