With Quincy Jones for a “godfather” and Dinah Washington for a “godmother”, Patti Austin first stepped foot on the stage of the Apollo theater as a 4-year old taking a dare from her godmother. Thus began a singing career that has spanned five decades. Jazz Monthly.com is pleased to feature Patti Austin for our May cover story for crossing all musical genres and achieving some of the highest honors in pop music, jazz and musical theater, shaping and reshaping music, as we know it.
Following her “debut” at the Apollo, Patti Austin was one of the youngest vocalists to be signed to a record label, RCA, at the age of 5. With her first album released in 1976 (End of a Rainbow) to her most recent, Grammy winning Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2007 (Avant Gershwin,) Patti Austin has contributed her versatile voice to many of the songs we store in our musical memories. In the 1960’s she was a prolific session musician and commercial jingle singer. From 1969 to 1991, she charted twenty R & B songs. Patti has also sung duets with the likes of Michael Jackson (It’s Falling in Love) on his Off the Wall album, George Benson (“Moody’s Mood for Love” and “Keep Your Dreams Alive”), Luther Vandross (“I’m Gonna Miss You In The Morning”), Johnny Mathis (“You Who Brought Me Love”) and one of her biggest mainstream hits with James Ingram “ Baby, Come To Me”.
In 1988, Ms. Austin released The Real Me, which was a collection of standards which earned her the first of several Top Ten listings on the Jazz Album charts.
She has traveled around the world performing her musical magic. Every few years for the last fifteen years, she has gone to Cologne Germany to sing with the WDR Orchestra. Working with Michael Abene (featured in January’s Jazz Monthly.com Cover Story), she paid tribute to Ella Fitzgerald with her For Ella project and most recently to George Gershwin with her Avant Gershwin album. Just last year, Patti traveled to Mumbai and New Delhi with Earl Klugh and Bob James. The United States Department of State brought these jazz greats to India as part of an ongoing partnership with the Thelonius Monk Institute of Jazz and Vh1 Jazz Masters.
When Jazz Monthly.com last spoke with Patti Austin (January 2007), she had just completed her part in a tribute to Luther Vandross, Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II, benefitting the Luther Vandross Foundation. Since then, she has continued to make beautiful music, pick up her long overdue Grammy at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, and also to champion causes she believes in, such as the prevention of domestic violence, stroke and diabetes prevention and awareness.