By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
Toward the end of Robert De Niro's acclaimed 2006 spy thriller The Good Shepherd, the camera lands on a sultry singer in a yellow gown in front of a society band. The credits list the character as "1961 Deer Island Singer," better known, in real life, as Ann Hampton Callaway, the powerhouse swing vocalist. Callaway reveled in the chance to play an entertainer to the upper crust set, though her personality and priorities are markedly down-to-earth. In the thirty seconds or so that she is onscreen, you can hear her singing "Come Rain or Come Shine" while the impeccably dressed Angelina Jolie and Matt Damon dance.
When Callaway was called to record this Harold Arlen classic for the soundtrack, she had no idea that De Niro would be at the session. "There he was," she recounts, in a recent phone interview, "with those deep, soulful eyes and an aura of extraordinary quiet and gentleness." She points out that among the many challenges of this assignment was adding her vocal track to music previously recorded for an instrumental version. At the last minute, De Niro decided he liked the irony of the lyrics("I'm gonna love you like nobody's loved you "), sung while the anguished couple danced across the parquet.
"So this project was to be a musical puzzle and an acting challenge," Callaway says. "De Niro is famous for being a very detailed and nuanced creator, so recording one song lasted much longer than I was used to." De Niro actually wanted about 30 or so takes so he could find the exact tone, volume, and texture for the action and dialogue in the scene. "After every other take, he would walk up to me and whisper an idea about a phrase or inflection. He would give me a little kiss on the cheek to encourage me and then walk back to the control room."
Callaway's silver screen debut may be little more than a musical cameo, but she takes quality over quantity every time. "If brevity is the soul of wit," Callaway concludes, "I'm glad to contribute a little wit."
On her current tour, Callaway performs in decidedly looser environs. Accompanied by a pianist, a bassist, and a drummer, she gallops through much of her latest release, Blues in the Night,a lively collection of standards and originals. Callaway emphasizes her love for live performance, and she will likely rattle Sandoval's fancy glassware with her swinging, boisterous romps. When the time comes to slow it down, bet on "Come Rain or Come Shine" topping her list. Andrés Solar