by wjw on November 19, 2007

This weekend we sojourned once again to Socorro, the Athens of the Southwest, to check out Chris Calloway. This isn’t the football player, or the wrestler, but the niece of pioneering band leader Blanche Calloway, the daughter of Cab Calloway, and the god-daughter of Lena Horne.

“Chris,” by the way, is short for “Christopher.” By the time Cab and Auntie Lena got to the hospital, they had taken on a serious load of celebration, and were far too plastered to worry about gender protocols while naming the new arrival.

We’d seen Calloway a few years ago, when much of her act consisted of tunes made famous by Blanche and Cab, with a bit of Billie Holliday thrown in. This time the first set was a tribute to Auntie Lena, with a number of anecdotes thrown in. She said that Lena and Cab first met at a party, when Lena walked in, looked at Cab’s wife, and said, “What’s that white bitch doing here?” Cab’s wife was not white, as it turned out, and Lena apologized, though not (presumably) for her white husband. An odd beginning for a friendship, but there go you.

The second half featured one Blanche song and one Cab song— one about Minnie the Moocher and Smokey Joe, but not the one you’re probably thinking about. Minnie and Joe were recurring characters in the Calloway song cycle.

Songs were nicely performed, and interspersed with lengthy anecdotes and humor. The band was solid, and I was particularly impressed by drummer Ricky Malachi. Sometimes the schtick got in the way of the music, but it was all amiable enough fun.

At the end Calloway talked about the fact that she’d been undergoing cancer treatment for the last few years, and the audience left in a more thoughtful mood than is usual for that venue.

We bought a CD, and are enjoying it.

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