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Austin, Patti

Austin, Patti

Singer

Asophisticated vocalist firmly grounded in jazz, Patti Austin enjoyed a period of stardom during the heyday of smooth, expertly produced rhythm-and blues music in the 1980s. Both before and since this period in the limelight, Austin continued challenging herself, balancing more introspective and/or artistic work with the commercial. Austin has been, in short, a professional's professional.

Austin was born in New York on August 10, 1948, and grew up in show business. Her father was a professional trombone player at the time. The family lived in Bayshore, Long Island. At the tender age of four she made her performing debut, singing a song called "Teach Me Tonight" on the stage of Harlem's famed Apollo Theater during an appearance by vocalist Dinah Washington, who was also Austin's godmother. A child star, she appeared on Sammy Davis, Jr.'s television variety show, worked on stage with such stars as Ray Bolger of The Wizard of Oz, and when she was nine she went to Europe with a group led by bandleader Quincy Jones, who would become an immensely influential figure both on Austin's own career and on popular music.

"My friends didn't know I was in show business until I was 16," said Austin. "The rest of the time, I never talked about it, because I wanted people to accept me for me, not based on whether I had a hit record or was highly visible or all that nonsense."

Toured with Harry Belafonte

Austin's first major series of appearances as a mature singer came when she was 16, when she went on tour with pop vocalist Harry Belafonte, then near the peak of his fame. This tour led to a fresh round of television appearances and to a three-year stint as a lounge singer for various international locations of the posh Intercontinental hotel chain. Austin's first recordings were made during this period as wellfor Coral Records in 1965. This material was reissued in 1999.

With this wealth of professional experience under her belt before she could even vote, it was not difficult for Austin to decide on a musical career. Recording executives and producers valued the young singer's know-how, and session-work opportunities began to flow her way.

"The first session I did was for James Brown's hit, 'It's a Man's World,' and when I got a nice juicy check from that," Austin recalled in a biographical sketch released by the Concord Jazz label. "I said, 'Hey let me do some more of this stuff.'" Austin became one of pop music's leading session vocalists in the early 1970s, backing both R&B and pop vocalists such as Paul Simon, Roberta Flack, George Benson, and Cat Stevens. With her vocals included on the soundtracks of hundreds of television commercials, Austin became one of America's most heard but least known singers.

That began to change when Austin was signed to the jazz-oriented label CTI in 1976, thanks to contacts with industry veteran Creed Taylor and Belafonte's former musical director Bill Eaton. The four albums Austin recorded for CTI helped to raise her profile in the industry and were widely appreciated by the architects of the "Quiet Storm" turn that black popular music took in the early 1980s. One of the albums, Havana Candy, was reissued in 1997 and favorably reviewed by Down Beat. The magazine pointed to "Austin's appreciation of the jazz legacy as well as her love of various pop styles."

Signed by Quincy Jones

The dawn of the 1980s brought Austin some especially high-profile session assignments: she sang on Gaucho, the rock group Steely Dan's complex exploration of the possibilities of soft rock, and, on a lighter note, appeared on the Blues Brothers album. She also enjoyed a hit single with "Razzmatazz" on Quincy Jones's Grammy-winning 1980 LP The Dude, and in 1981 was signed to Jones's Qwest label. That year, Austin's Qwest debut album, Every Home Should Have One, finally brought her stardom thanks to her chart-topping duet with James Ingram, "Baby Come to Me." The album was produced by Jones and Rod Temperton, the same team that would soon be responsible for Michael Jackson's epochal Off the Wall and Thriller albums.

"Baby Come to Me" was a perfect showcase for Austin's vocals, which had taken on an exquisite silky quality that blended nicely with the smooth instrumental textures of the period. The song appealed to pop and urban listeners, and was adopted as the theme song of the television soap opera General Hospital. Austin and Ingram followed it up in 1983 with another successful duet, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?"; part of the soundtrack of the film Best Friends, the song was nominated for an Oscar, and Austin and Ingram performed it on the Academy Awards television broadcast.

Austin's next Qwest album, Patti Austin, was released in 1984, but its assemblage of six separate producers failed to bring together a cohesive whole, and Rolling Stone complained that "except on the ballads, Austin's powerful and technically proficient voice lacks distinction." Two more albums for Qwest failed to reach the chart levels of Every Home Should Have One, and Austin's career took a dip. She was also shaken by a house fire that destroyed nearly everything she owned and came within seconds of killing her elderly parents.

Strongly Affected by Fire

The accident made Austin reexamine her priorities in life. Recalling her life atop the charts in the early 1980s in an interview with Essence, Austin said, "My main concerns were looking good, the parties I would attend and the size of the limousine that would take me to them." Her star-studded circle of associates suddenly seemed less attractive: "Yes, they were the 'happening' peopleon the charts and in the newsbut they were miserable in their persistent bed-hoppings. They were all doing too many drugs and too much booze. They all had lots of stuff but not much soul or heart." Austin scaled back, built a new home in upstate New York, and reconnected with some of her former jazz associates.

For the Record . . .

Born on August 10, 1948, in New York, NY; daughter of Gordon and Edna Austin.

Made debut appearance at age four with vocalist Dinah Washington, her godmother; traveled to Europe with bandleader Quincy Jones, age nine; toured with Harry Belafonte; became leading session and advertising-jingle vocalist, early 1970s; recorded debut LP, End of a Rainbow, 1976; recorded four albums for CTI label, late 1970s and early 1980s; signed with Qwest label, 1981; recorded smash Every Home Should Have One, which included single "Baby Come to Me," a duet with James Ingram, 1981; released four albums on Qwest, 1980s; signed with GRP label, 1990; signed with Concord Jazz label, 1998; signed with Intersound label, 1999; pre miered biographical one-woman show in Sacramento, 2002; released For Ella, 2002; nominated for a Grammy, 2003.

Addresses: Record company Playboy Jazz/Concord Records, Inc., 270 North Canon Dr., Ste. 1212, Beverly Hills, CA 90210, website: http://www.concordrecords.com. Website Patti Austin Official Website: http://www.pattiaustin.com.

Austin recorded a series of albums for the GRP label in the 1990s. One of them, Love Is Gonna Getcha, reunited her with Havana Candy producer and keyboardist Dave Grusin, and included the hit "Through the Test of Time." Austin enjoyed a moderate radio presence through the decade, kept up a steady stream of television appearances, and reveled in praise from such luminaries as opera star Kathleen Battle. In 1998 she recorded the In & Out of Love album for the Concord Jazz label, and the following year moved to Intersound for Street of Dreams, a disc that allowed her to showcase her interpretations of some of her own favorite compositions. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the All Music Guide called the album "a fine latter-day effort from a fine singer."

On the Way to Critical Acclaim

On the Way to Love was released in 2001. "The songs indulge in street argot here and there, but this is an upscale effort for the most part," wrote William Ruhlmann in an All Music Guide review. "It's not bad, but Austin can do much better."

In 2002, Sacramento Theatre Company premiered a production with the same titleOn the Way to Love, a one-person show about Austin, starring Austin. This purportedly "grew out of a meeting with Peggy Shannon, the current artistic director of STC," who had first met Austin a decade prior while working on Shakespeare's Pericles for National Public Radio, according to Sacramento News & Review. "My challenge in this show is to tell Patti's stories and dramatize them so that it's not one long monologue with songsbecause that's a concert." The production was scheduled to be performed in a couple of regional theatres with the goal being a Broadway run.

Of her 2002 release For Ella, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald recorded in Germany with the WDR Big Band, reviewers were more enthusiastic. "Austin had always had an ear for great material, and she possesses the interpretive tools to makes something special," wrote Jazziz reviewer Mark Holston. Austin's previous efforts at recording standards from the jazz canon he says "were compromised by cheesy, popish orchestrations.... There's no scarcity of arresting performances on For Ella."

Ruhlmann said he considers this a sequel to The Real Me. "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. ... Austin is better off putting her own stamp on the songs; that she does very well." She was nominated for a Grammy Award for this project and continued to tour in support of it into 2004.

Selected discography

End of a Rainbow, CTI, 1976.

Havana Candy, CTI, 1977; resissued, 1997.

Live at the Bottom Line, Epic, 1979.

Body Language, CTI, 1980.

Every Home Should Have One, Qwest, 1981.

In My Life, CTI, 1983.

Patti Austin, Qwest, 1984.

Gettin' Away with Murder, Qwest, 1985.

The Real Me, Qwest, 1988.

Love Is Gonna Getcha, GRP, 1990.

Carry On, GRP, 1991.

Live, GRP, 1992.

That Secret Place, GRP, 1994.

In and Out of Love, Concord Jazz, 1998.

Street of Dreams, Intersound, 1999.

Best of Patti Austin (Japan), WEA, 1999.

Take Away the Pain StainThe Coral Recordings, Body & Soul, 1999.

The CTI Collection, Connoisseur, 2000.

On the Way to Love, Warner Bros., 2001.

The Very Best of Patti Austin, Rhino, 2001.

For Ella, Playboy Jazz, 2002.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, editor, The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989.

Graff, Gary, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, Music-Hound R&B: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1998.

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, 1998.

Periodicals

Asia Africa Intelligence Wire, January 4, 2004.

Billboard, September 26, 1998, p. 25.

Down Beat, December 1997, p. 94.

Essence, March 1993, p. 67.

Jazziz, August 2002.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, March 31, 2003.

People, May 7, 1984, p. 30; May14, 1990, p. 26.

Rolling Stone, March 29, 1984, p. 74.

Online

"Honey for the bees: STC takes a gamble and puts together an original revue, based on the life and times of singer Patti Austin," Sacramento News & Review, http://www.newsreview.com/issues/Sacto/2002-01-17/arts.asp (January 21, 2004).

"Patti Austin," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com

(January 21, 2004).

James M. Manheim and Linda Dailey Paulson

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Austin, Patti

PATTI AUSTIN

Born: New York, New York, 10 August 1948

Genre: R&B, Jazz, Pop

Best-selling album since 1990: Love Is Gonna Getcha (1990)

Hit songs since 1990: "Through the Test of Time," "Givin' in to Love"


One of the most versatile singers in popular music, Patti Austin can handle pop, rhythm and blues, and jazz with equal mastery. A protégée of the great mid-century vocalist Dinah Washington, Austin evokes a style that harks back to the 1940s and 1950s, when the commercial division between pop, blues, and jazz was less rigid and singers routinely performed material from all three genres. Although she has enjoyed some Top 40 success, Austin has fallen short of pop stardom. Her versatility has often worked against her, making her difficult for record companies to categorize. Nonetheless, Austin's fine 1990s and post-2000 recordings establish her as a mature, intelligent artist who can withstand comparison with great vocalists of the past such as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

A native New Yorker, Austin began performing professionally at age five. During the 1950s she worked not just with Washington but also with famed pop singer Sammy Davis Jr. By the late 1960s she was recording as a solo artist, scoring her first rhythm and blues hit in 1969 with "Family Tree." The 1980s were her most commercially successful decade: She released the romantic pop hit, "Baby, Come to Me," and issued a series of albums on the Qwest label, owned by producer/arranger Quincy Jones. Austin's 1988 Qwest release, The Real Me, in which she deftly interprets a collection of classic "standard" songs, is a career highlight. Austin shines on material ranging from the jazzy, up-tempo, "I Can Cook Too," to the beguiling "Lazy Afternoon," on which she caresses the lyrics in a mood of romantic mystery. Other albums of the 1980s, however, failed to capture her full talent, promoting her as an easy-listening pop singer.

In 1990 Austin switched to the smaller GRP label and recorded a series of albums that explored the contrasting sides of her musical personality. That Secret Place (1994) is one of her most representative works, an album in which she moves convincingly from jazz to reggae to gospel and, finally, to pop balladry. Throughout the album Austin's voice is technically perfect, stretching effortlessly over several octaves. What's most impressive about That Secret Place, however, is that Austin's perfection never obstructs the songs' emotional content. Rather, her virtuosity gives her the freedom to explore emotional subtleties within the lyrics. On one of the album's most moving songs, "Somebody Make Me Laugh," she paints a vivid portrait of loneliness, mining sadness without slipping into self-pity: "Somebody make me laugh, somebody make me cry / Somebody take me by the hand, and look me in the eye."

For Ella, Austin's 2002 tribute to the late jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, is perhaps the most satisfying album of her career. Singing with a large orchestra, she shows no sign of vocal strain at age fifty-four. While Austin's voice may be less distinctive than Fitzgerald's, the two singers have much in common. Like Fitzgerald, Austin is blessed with perfect pitch and precise articulation, never pushing her voice harder than the songs require. When she does choose to push, however, the results are startling. In the album's boldest move, Austin reinterprets "Miss Otis Regrets," a song about the lynching of a society woman, as a powerful gospel number. Austin sings with cool precision at first, but slowly builds to a hard shout as she recounts the horror: "When the mob came and got her / You know, they dragged her from the jail." Beautifully structured, her performance captures a sense of outrage, turning a song usually treated with delicate irony into a hard-hitting indictment of hypocrisy.

Whether singing jazz, pop, or gospel, Patti Austin approaches each song with sensitivity and assurance. Through exploration of her wide-ranging talent, she has honored the traditions of the past while forging her own vision for the future.


SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

End of a Rainbow (CTI, 1976); Every Home Should Have One (Qwest, 1981); The Real Me (Quest, 1988); That Secret Place (GRP, 1994); On the Way to Love (Warner Bros., 2001); For Ella (Playboy Jazz, 2002).


WEBSITE:

www.pattiaustin.com.

david freeland

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"Austin, Patti." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Austin, Patti." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/austin-patti

Austin, Patti 1948–

Patti Austin 1948

Vocalist

Toured with Harry Belafonte

Signed by Quincy Jones

Strongly Affected by Fire

Selected discography

Sources

A sophisticated vocalist whose style was steeped in jazz, Patti Austin enjoyed a period of stardom during the heyday of smooth, expertly produced rhythm-and blues music in the 1980s. Both before and after her period in the limelight, Austin was tirelessly active as a musician, challenging herself and her listeners with a series of acclaimed jazz albums on one hand, and achieving vocal ubiquity as a successful singer of television commercial jingles on the other. Austin has been, in short, a professionals professional.

She was born in New York on August 10, 1948, and grew up in the lap of show business. At the tender age of four she made her performing debut, singing a song called Teach Me Tonight on the stage of Harlems famed Apollo Theater during an appearance by vocalist Dinah Washington, who was also Austins godmother. Something of a child star, she appeared on Sammy Davis Jr.s television variety show, worked on stage with such stars as Ray Bolger of The Wizard of Oz, and when she was nine she went to Europe with a group led by bandleader Quincy Jones, who would become an immensely influential figure both on Austins own career and on the world of black popular music generally.

Toured with Harry Belafonte

Austins first major series of appearances as a mature singer came when she was 16, when she went on tour with pop vocalist Harry Belafonte, then near the peak of his fame. This tour led to a fresh round of television appearances and to a three-year stint as a lounge singer for various international locations of the posh Intercontinental hotel chain. With this wealth of professional experience under her belt before she could even vote, it was not difficult for Austin to decide on a musical career. Recording executives and producers valued the young singers know-how, and session-work opportunities began to flow her way.

The first session I did was for James Browns hit, Its a Mans World, and when I got a nice juicy check from that, Austin recalled in a biographical sketch released by the Concord Jazz label. I said, Hey let me do some more of this stuff. Austin became one of pop musics leading session musicians in the early 1970s, backing both r&b and pop vocalists such as Paul Simon, Roberta Flack, George Benson, and Cat Stevens. With her vocals

At a Glance

Born August 10, 1948, in New York, New York; daughter of Gordon and Edna Austin. Education: attended high school.

Career: Vocalist. Made debut appearance at age four with vocalist Dinah Washington, her godmother; traveled to Europe at age nine with bandleader Quincy Jones; toured with Harry Belafonte; became leading session and advertising-jingle vocalist, early 1970s; recorded debut LP, End of a Rainbow, 1976; recorded four albums for CTI label, late 1970s and early 1980s; signed with Qwest label, 1981; recorded smash Every Home Should Have One, 1981 (included single Baby Come to Me, a duet with James Ingram); released four albums on Qwest, 1980s; signed with GRP label, 1990; signed with Concord Jazz label, 1998; signed with Intersound label, 1999.

Awards: Academy Award nomination, with James Ingram, for How Do You Keep the Music Playing?, 1983.

Addresses: Booking AgentPyramid Entertainment Group, 89 Fifth Ave., 7th floor, New York, NY 10003. Label-lntersound, 11810 Wills Rd., Alpharetta, GA 30004

included on the soundtracks of hundreds of television commercials, Austin became one of Americas most heard but least known singers.

That began to change when Austin was signed to the jazz-oriented label CTI in 1976, thanks to contacts with industry veteran Creed Taylor and Belafontes former musical director Bill Eaton. The four albums Austin recorded for CTI helped to raise her profile in the industry and were widely appreciated by the architects of the Quiet Storm turn that black popular music took in the early 1980s. One of the albums, Havana Candy, was reissued in 1997 and favorably reviewed by Down Beat. The magazine pointed to Austins appreciation of the jazz legacy as well as her love of various pop styles.

Signed by Quincy Jones

The dawn of the 1980s brought Austin some especially high-profile session assignments: she sang on Gaucho, the rock group Steely Dans complex exploration of the possibilities of soft rock, and, on a lighter note, appeared on the Blues Brothers album. She also enjoyed a hit single with Razzmatazz on Quincy Joness Grammy-winning 1980 LP The Dude, and in 1981 was signed to Joness Qwest label. That year, Austins Qwest debut album, Every Home Should Have One, finally brought her stardom thanks to her chart-topping duet with James Ingram, Baby Come to Me. The album was produced by Jones and Rod Temperton, the same team that would soon be responsible for Michael Jacksons epochal Off the Wall and Thriller albums.

Baby Come to Me was a perfect showcase for Austins vocals, which had taken on an exquisite silky quality that blended nicely with the smooth instrumental textures of the period. The song drew pop as well as urban listeners in droves, and was adopted as the theme song of the television soap opera General Hospital. Austin and Ingram followed it up in 1983 with another successful duet, How Do You Keep the Music Playing?; part of the soundtrack of the film Best Friends, the song was nominated for an Oscar, and Austin and Ingram performed it on the Academy Awards television broadcast.

Austins next Qwest album, Patti Austin, was released in 1984, but its assemblage of six separate producers failed to bring together a cohesive whole, and Rolling Stone complained that except on the ballads, Austins powerful and technically proficient voice lacks distinction. Two more albums for Qwest failed to reach the chart levels of Every Home Should Have One, and Austins career took a dip. She was also shaken by a house fire that destroyed nearly everything she owned and came within seconds of killing her elderly parents.

Strongly Affected by Fire

The accident made Austin reexamine her priorities in life. Recalling her life atop the charts in the early 1980s in an interview with Essence, Austin said, My main concerns were looking good, the parties I would attend and the size of the limousine that would take me to them. Her star-studded circle of associates suddenly seemed less attractive: Yes, they were the happening peopleon the charts and in the newsbut they were miserable in their persistent bed-hoppings. They were all doing too many drugs and too much booze. They all had lots of stuff but not much soul or heart. Austin scaled back, built a new home in upstate New York, and reconnected with some of her former jazz associates.

Austin recorded a series of albums for the GRP label in the 1990s. One of them, Love Is Gonna Getcha, reunited her with Havana Candy producer and keyboardist Dave Grusin, and included the hit Through the Test of Time. Austin enjoyed a moderate radio presence through the decade, kept up a steady stream of television appearances, and reveled in praise from such luminaries as opera star Kathleen Battle. In 1998 she recorded the In & Out of Love album for the Concord Jazz label, and the following year moved to Intersound for Street of Dreams, a disc that allowed her to showcase her interpretations of some of her own favorite compositions. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of the music-encyclopedia website allmusic.com called the album a fine latter-day effort from a fine singer.

Selected discography

End of a Rainbow, CTI, 1976.

Havana Candy, CTI, 1977.

Live at the Bottom Line, Epic, 1979.

Body Language, CTI, 1980.

Every Home Should Have One, Qwest, 1981.

In My Life, CTI, 1983.

Patti Austin, Qwest, 1984.

Gettin Away with Murder, Qwest, 1985.

The Real Me, Qwest, 1988.

Love Is Gonna Getcha, GRP, 1990.

Carry On, GRP, 1991.

Live, GRP, 1992.

That Secret Place, GRP, 1994.

In and Out of Love, Concord Jazz, 1998.

Street of Dreams, Intersound, 1999.

Sources

Books

Clarke, Donald, ed., The Penguin Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Viking, 1989.

Graff, Gary, Josh Freedom du Lac, and Jim McFarlin, MusicHound R&B: The Essential Album Guide, Visible Ink, 1998.

Larkin, Colin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze UK, 1998.

Periodicals

Billboard, September 26, 1998, p. 25.

Down Beat, December 1997, p. 94.

Essence, March 1993, p. 67.

People, May 7, 1984, p. 30; May 14, 1990, p. 26.

Rolling Stone, March 29, 1984, p. 74.

Other

Additional information for this profile was obtained from www.aent.com/concord/bios/austinbio2.html; and www.allmusic.com.

James M. Manheim

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"Austin, Patti 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 12 Dec. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Austin, Patti 1948–." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved December 12, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/austin-patti-1948