Now we know! Patti Austin’s so much anticipated tribute to Ella Fitzgrelad features arrangements by brilliant Gordon Goodwin and horns from his fabulous Big Phat Band. The legendary vocalist for the first time revealed information also about the song selection on this Jazz FM interview. And she shared some amazing stories, proving that two souls can feel as one when they are under the influence of the magic of music!
“What was really incredible was that we’d both been traveling while we worked on this project. A lot of times we hadn’t been able to sit down and communicate how I wanted the things to be done. And it was miraculous! Every time I would leave Gordon to his own devices, he would end up doing exactly what I was thinking I wanted him to do and never had the time or the chance to tell him.” – Patti Austin gets us into the turbulent, yet smooth atmosphere of creating this album.
Here is the example of “April in Paris”. Patti Austin had the idea of referencing the line from Wild Bill Davis’ 1955 arrangement for The Count Basie Orchestra… “I was on the road and didn’t have a chance to talk to Gordon about what I wanted. When I played the demo he sent me – it started with it!”
“April in Paris” is a song with a special meaning to Patti Austin. It brings back memories from her first trip to Europe when she was 9 years old and performed in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Paris with The Quincy Jones Orchestra. “It was astonishing for me to be in Paris! Here’s this little kid from America going: “Look at these buildings!” “April in Paris” represents this to me as a song.”
And so it sets the tone of the whole album: “So I wanted the song to be cinematic – I wanted you to be able to put the song on and close your eyes and maybe feel the excitement that I felt as a child being in Paris. And he captured absolutely everything! I just kept saying: “Gordon, make it cinematic! Think of it as a movie, think of it as underscoring for a film with a wink and a nod at jazz. So that’s what he did with and without me. And he made it happen!”
The new Patti Austin’s Ella Fitzgerald tribute will not feature a newly-composed song of dedication, as “Hearing Ella Sing” was on “For Ella”. Instead, the album throws light on some of the lesser known songs from Ella’s repertoire. Three or four tracks are “the hits”, such as “April in Paris” and “Mack The Knife”. “But I also did two songs from her early repertoire with Chick Webb which a lot of people are not familiar with – “Sing Me a Swing Song” and “T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)”. We modernized the arrangement of “Sing Me a Swing Song” – we’ve got a contemporary groove under it. We tried to take the music and mix it up and bring some more modern life into it.” – Patti Austin tells us. She says she is very proud of this album and believes that people will really like it. We’ll certainly do!
And just before that we will hear her voice on another tribute – dedicated to Aretha Franklin is “A Brand New Me”. Coming out on Nov. 10th, it showcases the Queen’s voice from the original recordings, the backgound vocals are replicated by three singers, led by Patti Austin, and the orchestral arrangements are performed by the Royal Philcharmonic Orchestra. That is what we knew until now. And here is Patti Austin with some exciting news: Ledisi is one of the three back vocalists. And this is how it all happened: “A lot of the backgrounds on those songs were done by Cissy Houston and The Sweet Inspirations. We had to duplicate exactly what they did – and some of it was not in tune, and some of it was not in time.” Back then it was all recorded live in the studio with a rhythm section... “And we had to match that, we had to match not what was right, but what was wrong! It was a daunting task,” Patti admits and compares it with the unimaginable – painting a 747 with a q-tip!
“But we had a lot of fun! We had a lot of fun! We would sing something and it would sound really great when we listen to it. And it didn’t match the original! So we had to go back in the studio.”
It’s hard to believe that that could be all. Here is Patti again: “You think you know what they sing on these great golden hits. So wrong! It’s different words, different notes…”
You can listen to Svetoslav Nikolov’s interview with Patti Austin using the “Audio” button.
Photo by Dimityr Alexov: Patti Austin live in Sofia on May 17th, 2017.