Tiffany Austin: Unbroken

Walter Atkins BY

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I want the album to be a balm for people who feel discouraged in these times, by reminding them of the power and enduring spirit of those who came before.
—Tiffany Austin
Rising San Francisco Bay Area jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin held an engaging album release party for her sophomore effort, Unbroken (Con Alma Music, 2018) at the comfortable Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland's Uptown neighborhood. As the NBA Golden State Warriors battled the Houston Rockets in a crucial semi finals game a few miles way at Oracle Arena, Austin treated her lucky guests to passionate music along with good food & wine in a unique musical setting. It's also home to Living Jazz and Jazz Camp West run by Stacey Hoffman,executive director.

All About Jazz: Unbroken is the follow up to your vibrant debut album Nothing But Soul (Con Alma Music, 2015). Share with us the personal significance of the title and how do you see the album in a larger social context?

Tiffany Austin: "Unbroken" is a celebration of the resilience of the African American spirit and musical lineage. I want the album to be a balm for people who feel discouraged in these times, by reminding them of the power and enduring spirit of those who came before.

AAJ: Your new CD starts off with "Greenwood," a stylishly performed song with a razor sharp political /social commentary. What are your feelings and motivations for this track?

TA: I wrote "Greenwood" on the heels of hearing of so many black people being murdered with impunity—from those kidnapped and taken on ships, to the people on the plantations, to Amede Ardoin, to the 1921 pogrom of Tulsa Oklahoma's 'Black Wall Street,' to Emmett Till, to Trayvon Martin, and beyond. I wrote the song from the perspective of one who has just realized that their love is unrequited.

AAJ: While writing the lyrics to "Better Git It In Your Soul," your buoyant interpretation of the Charles Mingus classic "Better Get Hit in Your Soul," what is your inspiration?

TA: The song's title, along with Mingus' soulful, masterful playing inspired the lyrics. In anything one wants to do well, in a manner that really connects and transcends and communes, soul is the key ingredient.

AAJ: With Bay Area stalwart Tammy Lynne Hall on piano, you perform a limited set of tracks at your Unbroken release party. How did you hand pick these particular songs?

TA: >: I chose songs that would be best suited for voice/piano duo. The album arrangements are for septet, so that is what dictated the song choice.

AAJ: What made you decide on downtown Oakland's Piedmont Piano Company for your CD release party venue? (Dig being surrounded by various pianos in a remodeled 1946 Art Deco building)

TA: I really love the sunshine and warm environment of Piedmont Piano, and so I felt like it would be the perfect place to host an intimate afternoon get-together.

AAJ: How did you choose to close the adventurous Unbroken with "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize"?

TA: It was the last song that we tracked during the recording session. I love the intimacy and stripped-down nature of the duo with Rodney Whitaker, as well as the message of hope that it left listeners with, so I thought it would be the perfect digestif.

AAJ: You graduated from UC Berkeley's Law School, Boalt Hall a few years ago. Reflecting on your career path, do you miss law? If you had chosen law, what would have been your focus?

TA: My focus in law school was intellectual property/ entertainment law. I really enjoyed the intellectual stimulation of law school, and I learned a lot about time management, as well as how to handle a lot of pressure. My legal education was invaluable when I started my record label, and continues to be an asset for all my business dealings.

AAJ: Is there anything you would like to add?

TA: I'm so grateful that I have had the opportunity to pursue my dream, and to have worked with such an amazing group of people on this project. I hope that the music brings some joy and hope to listeners.

AAJ: Thank you for your time Ms. Austin. We look forward to hearing more music from you in the coming years.

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