Monday, December 9, 2013


Patti Austin
Jazz vocalist Patti Austin’s game plan for her Sunday afternoon show at the Paradise Jazz Series was to hit the stage glamorous in heels and a tight gown. And wow the audience with music from Duke Ellington's and Ella Fitzgerald's songbook. But she had to abandon that game plan. 

A few days ago, she had a freak accident and hurt her leg, making it impossible to parade around  a stage all dolled up. Instead of heels and a gown, she strolled out in a turtleneck and slacks. She sat on a stool center stage, and she belted a medley of Christmas hits. 

Before her band-pianist Michael Ricchireti, drummer Ross Pederson and bassist Richard Hammond-joined her, she told the audience about her injury and kidded about the outfit she had on being the same she wore on the flight to Detroit Saturday. That broke the ice. 

Comedy was a big part of her two hour show. She jokingly told the audience Fitzgerald was the Britney Spears of her day. The biggest laugh came when Ross and Hammond ushered her back on the stage after the intermission. Austin said you know you're getting old when two white boys have to help you on stage. If being a vocalist hadn't panned out, she could've made a killing as a comic.

The concert was billed as a tribute to Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. Austin rushed through Ellington’s “Take the 'A' Train,” “Satin Doll,” and “In My Solitude”. The rest of the show was about Fitzgerald. 

Austin performed many of Fitzgerald’s well-known hits such as “Tisket A Tasket” and “Mr. Paganini”. She lead each song with funny tales and some obscure facts about Fitzgerald's teenage years. For example, at age 16 Fitzgerald was homeless. And she dreamed to break into show business as a shake-dancer.  

Austin is a talker. In fact, she talked more than she sang. When she sang it was bad-ass. I didn’t want her to stop. She has the loveliest and the purest voice of any jazz vocalists who’s performed at the Paradise Jazz series. Cassandra Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Gretchen Parlato, and Dianne Reeves have headlined.

She could've sang without a band and kept the audience spellbound. Her physical discomfort was noticeable throughout the concert. Somehow she managed to work through it. 
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