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Patti Austin Focused on Swing and Jazz


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Classic Patti Austin, Newly Focused on Swing and Jazz
For years Patti Austin has struggled with the mixed blessing of having a voice that is too perfect.

Strong and flexible, with a velvety texture and immaculately rounded tones complemented by impeccable enunciation, it is a quintessential session singer's voice because it is not instantly identifiable when heard singing backup vocals or commercials. On Wednesday evening at the Rose Theater, where Ms. Austin headlined Jazz at Lincoln Center's annual spring gala benefit, all the hallmarks of her musical personality were in place -- but with a difference.

That difference was the concert's focus on swing and jazz. As Ms. Austin has shifted her musical direction from glossy pop-soul toward jazz, her identity as a vocal technician in the tradition of Ella Fitzgerald has sharpened. Her recent Grammy Award-winning album, Avant Gershwin (Rendezvous Entertainment), is a swing recording with the WDR Big Band that solidifies her emerging identity.

On Wednesday, 18 musicians led by Mike Ricchiuti, including five trumpets, five saxophones, four trombones and one cheesy sounding synthesizer, played with a gusto that was matched by Ms. Austin's confident, full-bodied performances.

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