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Patti Austin: Avant Gershwin

By Published: May 8, 2007
AAJ: That will certainly be something to look forward to. Do you hope that these albums will reach a new audience, really the twenty-something generation that perhaps is not at all familiar with Gershwin tunes? And perhaps even students in college, studying music?

PA: I am hoping, praying and doing everything possible to make that happen. One of the ways that we decided early on to market this project was through music education. Unfortunately, a lot of the public schools no longer have music education due to budget cuts. Then they cut athletics, which are two things that make students want to stay in school when they hit a wall. That is when you need to have the diversion and also the discipline of trying to become a half-way decent musician. Even if you don't become a professional musician, it is scientifically proven that working with music expands the mind—it makes you better in mathematics and mostly everything that you do in your life.

In the first grade my teacher would play all the songs from the Great American Songbook, and my father was a musician so music was in our house all the time. Music is a magnificent thing, and so to market this album I will be going into the schools and Borders bookstores to teach masters classes. We will be doing the classes with the public and students. In each city that I teach this class, the students will be chosen through the school system and we will put them in the inner circle and then we will have our viewing audience.

We will be talking about Gershwin, interpretive singing and interpreting the Great American Songbook. We will be talking about the Gershwin boys and how they composed and what the songs mean. And then, the students will be given a choice between two Gershwin songs and they will choose one and perform it. I will then critique them, and if they are serious about singing, I will help them do it. That is how we are connecting the younger and older generations.

AAJ: That really sounds fantastic! What a great opportunity for students who are interested in singing. I am sure it will be very successful.

PA: I will be going to a lot of schools as well and I will be performing the show on campuses across the country.

AAJ: Great! It will be an extensive tour.

PA: We will be going all over the world—the United States, Europe, Asia, all during the year.

AAJ: What do you hope the listener takes away from Avant Gershwin?

Patti AustinPA: I hope if nothing else they become curious about this form and explore it further. I hope that they go and listen to Judy Garland's versions of these songs and go and watch American movie classics on occasion to get into the genre, because it is tremendous fun. You can really find out a lot about this country.

Every country has its own music and every generation does, too. The generation that created this music went through wars, depressions and all kinds of things that would have broken the back of most people—and somehow we were able to survive all that with tremendous music and great entertainment. That is why I think that this music lives on, because it came from one of the toughest periods in our history. I hope it lives on forever.

I thank people like my father, and my godfather Quincy Jones, my godmother Dinah Washington, Rosemary Clooney and Mel Tormé, for making me sing this way. My last anointing came from Rosemary Clooney who was my mentor, because of the benefit that she did every year to have me come and do standard material that I was not otherwise doing at that time; I was doing pop hits like "Baby Come to Me and that kind of stuff. I would go and do this benefit with her and I would sing these standards. One day she said to me, "You must continue to sing this music, interpret it. I know you are making pop records but you've got to sing the Great American Songbook. I think that I am seasoned enough now to bring some merit to it, and honor it and I just want to pass it on.

Selected Discography

Patti Austin, Avant Gershwin (Rendezvous, 2007)

Patti Austin, Forever, for Always, for Luther II (Rendezvous, 2006)

Patti Austin, For Ella (Playboy Jazz, 2004)
Patti Austin, Baby Come To Me And Other Hits (Flashback/Rhino Flashback, 2001)
Patti Austin, On The Way To Love (Warner Bros/WEA, 2001)
Patti Austin, The Very Best Of Patti Austin (Rhino/WEA, 2001)
Patti Austin, The CTI Collection (Warner Bros/WEA, 2001)
Patti Austin, Take Away The Pain Stain (Generic, 1999)

Patti Austin, Street Of Dreams (Compendia, 1998)

Patti Austin, In & Out Of Love (Concord Records, 1998)

Patti Austin, The Ultimate Collection (GRP Records, 1995)

Patti Austin, That Secret Place (GRP Records, 1994)

Patti Austin, The Best Of Patti Austin (Columbia, 1994)

Patti Austin, Live (GRP Records, 1992)

Patti Austin, Carry On (GRP Records, 1991)

Patti Austin, Love Is Gonna Getcha (GRP Records, 1990)

Patti Austin, The Real Me (Qwest/WEA, 1988)

Patti Austin, Gettin' Away With Murder (WEA International, 1985)

Patti Austin, Patti Austin (210/Qwest, 1984)

Patti Austin, In My Life (Rendezvous, 1983)

Patti Austin, Every Home Should Have One (Qwest/WEA, 1981)

Patti Austin, Body Language (Sony, 1980)

Patti Austin, Live At The Bottom Line (Sony, 1979)

Patti Austin, Havana Candy (Sony, 1977)

Patti Austin, End Of A Rainbow (King, 1976)

Photo Credit
Carol Friedman

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