Des Moines’ jazz lovers were treated to a night of jazzy vocals and piano standards backed by a quartet of world-class musicians. On September 28, 2018 the Civic Music Association of Des Moines presented their first concert of the 2018-2019 season: “A Night of Chicago Jazz: Ramsey Lewis & Ann Hampton Callaway.” The ornate theater at Hoyt Sherman Place, located in the historic Sherman Hill district of Des Moines, provided a stunning backdrop for the 90 minute concert.
Ann Hampton Callaway took the stage first, backed by the fine musicians of Ramsay Lewis’ quintet (keyboards, guitar, drums, and bass). She immediately established a rapport with the audience, explaining that this was her first ever performance in Des Moines. Her repertoire included a nod to the great Ella Fitzgerald, “How High the Moon”, as well as original piano and vocal compositions. Ms. Callaway’s vocals were pleasantly situated mainly in the alto range and sometimes had a sultry, throaty quality. Her skat singing was pure heaven. Here’s a sample of her performance with the Boston Symphony:
After almost an hour, Ms. Callaway welcomed Ramsey Lewis to the stage. Mr. Lewis, a legend in the jazz world, has recorded over 80 albums and garnered 3 Grammy Awards during his 60+ year career. Mr. Lewis also had an engaging on-stage persona, and his piano performance ranged from jazz standards such as “Tequila Mockingbird” to his collaborative pieces with the R&B funk group Earth Wind & Fire.
Mr. Lewis’ light touch on the piano keys gave way to rolling melodies. His performance certainly gave no indication that he is slowing down as he moves into his 80s, although I’ve read that this might be his final year to tour.
Here’s a sample of a live performance of “Brazilica”:
Ms. Callaway came back on-stage to sing a final song accompanied by Mr. Lewis. She asked the audience for some input, then wove those words into the finale.
The concert ended too soon for me and, I’m sure, many other listeners. Thanks Civic Music Association for bringing these excellent performers to Des Moines!