Cab Calloway's youthful exuberance and undiminished showsmanship belies his age and continues to thrill crowds such as the one at the "Artistic Inspirations" benefit at the Kennedy Center.
The benefit Thursday night for the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education paired the 75-year-old Calloway and members of his family with "outstanding young artists from the historically black colleges and universities."
In firm voice Calloway dipped into a capacious baritone and caught any high note he reached for as he belted out "Good Time Charley" and "Get Happy." He whipped the band--and himself--into a frenzy on "Blues in the Night."
His voice reproduced a tightly muted trumpet for an instant on "Stormy Weather" and then burst through the clouds with the power of a trombone chorus. His routine ran the gamut from the camel walk's menacing Dracula strides to Groucho Marx' long step, with other varieties of eccentric dance in between. On several of the up-tempo numbers his feet flew like a tapper's.
He capped the evening after a standing ovation with "Hi-De-Ho," which he tossed back and forth with his delighted audience in a spirited game of musical handball.
Chris Calloway, daughter of the headliner, shared his act with a half-dozen songs that combined Latin bombshell audacity and mannered understatement. Cab Calloway's grandson, guitarist Christopher Brooks, almost upstaged his grandfather with two meanly picked blues.
Accompanied by the jazz orchestra of Atlanta's Clark College, a dozen young performers from black colleges opened the program. Each was outstanding, but especially notable were operatic-voiced Barbara Booker's "Summertime," which penetrated like a flash of lightning; Ivy Ashford's magestic gospel shaping of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"; the rough-hewn and raw cornet solo of Gregory Styles; the wafting tenor saxophone timbre of Larry Seals, and Denise Marshall's gardenia-in-the-hair vocal of "God Bless the Child."