Patti Austin was only four years old when she made her singing debut at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. The Apollo made a lasting impression on Austin, who often returned to hear vocal stars Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne and Ella Fitzgerald. Ms. Austin pays tribute to "The First Lady Of Song," Ella Fitzgerald, on her new album, For Ella.
When Patti Austin began researching Ella Fitzgerald's life in preparation for her new album, Patti was surprised to learn that her idol was painfully shy. It was a trait that went unnoticed when Ella sang on stage, usually full of passion and energy. With For Ella, Austin gives new life to a dozen of Ella's most cherished songs.
Like Ella Fitzgerald, who recorded her first single with bandleader Chick Webb at age 17, Patti Austin was an early bloomer. As a child, she appeared on television with Sammy Davis, Junior, performed in musical theatre and toured with Quincy Jones and Harry Belafonte.
She began recording in her late teens, delivering the R&B hit "Family Tree" in 1969. She kept busy with solo albums, commercial jingles and session work, including an appearance on Quincy Jones' Grammy Award-winning hit "The Dude."
Austin continued to have success on the pop and R&B charts before returning to her jazz roots on her 1988 album The Real Me. It was only a matter of time before Austin, now 53, got around to recording a big band album in honor of her jazz hero Ella Fitzgerald.
On For Ella, "Hearing Ella Sing" was co-written by Arthur Hamilton and arranger Patrick Williams. In addition to Austin's remarkable vocals, the album features the WDR Big Band and Orchestra, conducted by Patrick Williams.
Patti Austin will perform songs from her new album For Ella with the Count Basie Big Band at this year's Playboy Jazz Festival in Los Angeles, California.