Patti Austin Brings Lifelong Love Of Jazz To Atlanta

Patti Austin's two major influences are Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.
Patti Austin's two major influences are Judy Garland and Ella Fitzgerald.
Credit Courtesy of Patti Austin


Patti Austin made her Apollo Theater debut at the age of 4 on a dare.

“We went to see the Apollo to see Dinah Washington,” said Austin, who often met renowned musicians growing up through her musical father, a professional trombone player. With some precociousness, Austin ended up on stage. “Dinah dared me to sang, I sang, and I finished singing and ran off the stage. The audience liked it, and I liked that they liked it, and I ran into the arms of a guy who was on one knee in the wing.”

That guy was Sammy Davis Jr., who asked her parents if she could do his show the following week, and a robust musical career was born.

Austin has released 17 solo albums and has performed with the likes of Michael Jackson and Paul Simon. She won a Grammy in 2008 for best jazz vocal for her album “Avant Gershwin.”

In an interview with Lois Reitzes, Austin discussed her relationship with her godfather Quincy Jones, Johnny Mathis and her two musical idols, Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

Austin first saw Garland perform at age 13. Regardless of Garland’s dwindling technical ability at the time, Austin said that performance totally changed her life.

“None of her technical ability matter because there was so much soul and so much heart and so much skill. And I had never seen someone perform that way,” said Austin. “She had to act her way through stuff, and she was brilliant at it.”

Austin performs in Atlanta this week at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. That performance is on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 8 p.m.

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