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Claire Austin Sings When Your Lover Has Gone

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Album Review

The history of jazz and blues is full of talented artists who were obscure but didn't deserve to be. One example is Claire Austin, an expressive jazz/blues vocalist who was as proficient with intimate, introspective torch singing as she was with more extroverted classic blues. Illustrating Austin's versatility, this reissue from 1991 combines two 1950s albums on a single 69-minute CD: Claire Austin Sings When Your Lover Has Gone (which was recorded for Contemporary in 1955 and 1956) and Claire Austin Sings the Blues with Kid Ory (which was recorded for Good Time Jazz in 1954). The albums are as different as night and day. On Lover, Austin favors vulnerable, relaxed, subtle torch singing — and her phrasing could be described as an appealing combination of Mildred Bailey, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday. But on Blues (which employs Kid Ory on trombone), Austin is more of a belter and takes a classic blues approach along the lines of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Ida Cox. These two different approaches called for different types of material — Austin the torch singer embraces the songbooks of great pop composers like Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, and the Gershwin Brothers, whereas "See See Rider" and Alberta Hunter's "Downhearted Blues" are the sort of classics that work for Austin the classic blues singer. Unfortunately, Austin only recorded sporadically, and the fact that she wasn't documented nearly as much as she should have been makes this excellent reissue all the more valuable.

Customer Reviews

Claire Austin Sings When Your Lover Has Gone

Perfect example of beautiful jazz and torch singing. Austin is one of those overlooked white singers of the period who was well regarded, but never had the opportunities of some other vocalists. One reason may be that she didn't have the distinctive sound of a Billie Holiday or the commercialism of a Peggy Lee. She also didn't have the charisma of lesser talented singers like Julie London. Still, this album has some superb emotional singing. A very worthwhile purchase.


Born: November 21, 1918 in Yakima, WA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s

A vocalist who mixed classic blues elements with traditional jazz. She studied piano in Tacoma, then played in night clubs throughout the Northwest. During the mid-'40s, Austin sang in the Midwest. She recorded with Turk Murphy in the early and mid-'50s, and led an all-star...
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Claire Austin Sings When Your Lover Has Gone, Claire Austin
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