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Patti Austin - For Ella

Patti Austin

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Album Review

Patti Austin is well qualified to record an album in the style of Ella Fitzgerald, having spent her career shadowing the paths taken by Fitzgerald and her contemporaries. Although she has worked in R&B-oriented adult pop much of the time, she is clearly in the tradition of Fitzgerald, and in 1988 she even recorded an album of standards that she tellingly titled The Real Me. For Ella easily could be the sequel to that collection. Austin traveled to Köln, Germany, to record a program of songs associated with Fitzgerald with the WDR Big Band conducted by Patrick Williams. Many of the songs, of course, are just ones Fitzgerald happened to sing but that have broader associations as well, such as George & Ira Gershwin's "Our Love Is Here to Stay" and "The Man I Love," though others, such as "A Tisket a Tasket," inevitably evoke Fitzgerald. Austin does not, for the most part, attempt to sing in Fitzgerald's style, giving listeners her own interpretations that, in Williams' neo-swing arrangements, nevertheless hark back to the 1950s. That's fine for the most part, though the version of "Miss Otis Regrets," which treats it as a gospel performance in the manner of Mahalia Jackson, without the slightest touch of humor, is a misstep. On two occasions, Austin does copy Fitzgerald, re-creating the scat sections of "You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)" and "How High the Moon." That obviates the problem of having to compete with Fitzgerald on her greatest improvisational triumphs, but it's a technical achievement of an odd sort. Austin is better off putting her own stamp on the songs; that she does very well.

Biography

Born: 10 August 1950 in New York, NY

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A professional since the age of five, Patti Austin was a protégé of Dinah Washington and Sammy Davis, Jr. A 1969 single for United Artists titled "Family Tree" cracked the R&B Top 50. Austin cut her debut LP, End of a Rainbow, for Creed Taylor's CTI label in 1976, followed by Havana Candy in 1977 and Body Language in 1980. She sang lead vocals for Japanese koto player Yutaka Yokokura on "Love Light" in 1978, did a duet with Michael Jackson on "It's the Falling in Love" for Off the Wall, and sang...
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Patti Austin - For Ella, Patti Austin
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