When singers Tierney Sutton and Ann Hampton Callaway visit the KNKX studios, it's always a pleasure and a thrill. When the two of them join forces, it's a superhero-caliber dynamic duo of jazz.
Both singers have released albums of songs from the movies in the last year. Callaway's Jazz Goes to the Movies focuses mostly on the great standards and love songs of the '30s, '40s that began in musicals and films. Sutton's Screenplay was originally drawn from the film music of songwriting team Marilyn and Alan Bergman, but expanded to include songs suggested by her fans.
Two of those suggestions sparked an idea for Sutton. She asked her friend, bassist Trey Henry, to help arrange a mashup of "Moon River" (from "Breakfast at Tiffany's") and "Calling You" (from "Baghdad Cafe"). With both singers showing off impressive range and incredible tone in harmony, it was a performance that had our audience rubbing the chills off their arms.
The pair are obviously fans of each other, and their shared musical passion and improvisational expertise was a recipe for a wonderful studio session for our audience.
Both also have recorded songs for recent films, and dropped some heavy movie star names discussing them.
Callaway got a phone call out of the blue asking her to record "Come Rain or Come Shine" for Robert DeNiro's film "The Good Shepherd," not realizing DeNiro would be in the studio to direct her. "He wanted 35 versions of the song, and he directed me in each take," Callaway told us. "He wanted to be sure the scene had exactly the right resonance." DeNiro enjoyed her company so much, he gave her a small role in the film.
Sutton followed with, "I'll see your Robert DeNiro and raise you a Clint Eastwood!"
"I picked up the phone and he said, 'Hi, this is Clint Eastwood,'" Sutton relates. "He was stalking me a bit, he and his girlfriend were at every show I did for about six months. Finally we got the call to come see a preview screening." By the time the credits rolled, Eastwood asked Sutton and pianist Christian Jacob if they would score his new film Sully. Two days after that, they were in the studio with Eastwood directing their music.
With the two singers in the KNKX studios, Christian Jacob was a perfect accompanist for this duo. Not an artist to shrink into the corner, he told us excitedly about his new trio album of original compositions called The Originals.
These two singers are impeccable listeners, which is key to blending two powerful voices. Though Callaway's delivery is full of power and Sutton's style is more langorous, the sound of both together was reminiscent of a pair of horns in tandem. Each singer uses their voice as an instrumentalist does, but with the added feature of lyrical storytelling.
As they wrapped up their afternoon with us, I told them that our audience would certainly love to hear them collaborate on an album together. With two singers as busy as Tierney Sutton and Ann Hampton Callaway, it's no easy trick. But both talked about their hopes for more vocal matchups throughout jazz in the future. Who can say what will come next?