In 2017 the Melbourne International Jazz Festival celebrate 20 years of extraordinary jazz in Melbourne. The 20th-anniversary program will be a celebration of jazz in all its forms, with over 120 events in 27 venues featuring 400+ Australian, international and emerging artists. With being such big fans of Ella Fitzgerald, it’s no surprise that we got to speak with Patti Austin who is performing a celebration of Ella and Louis.
Hey Patti, how was your latest gig in Brooklyn?
You know I don’t even remember, they have all been for Ella. The last gig I did was with the Portland symphony and we had such a great time with those ladies and guys. They were fantastic and they can swing. I can’t wait to get to Australia because I know everyone can swing there as I’ve already swung there. My good friend Mr.Morrison and I are going to have a ball, that’s all I can say.
You were last in Melbourne for the Jazz Festival in 2012, can you remember what your highlight was from that?
Whenever I get to come to Australia that’s the highlight. I love the people, the energy is absolutely beautiful there and you’ve got one of the most well educated and appreciative audiences with this lovely genre I find myself immersed in. In the states, I’m best known for my pop & RnB stuff and although I’ve been doing this Ella show and touring all over the world I’m still known as a pop n RnB artist. After 8 nominations I finally won a Grammy for my Jazz album. However, you guys get it and there’s nothing like it.
Melbourne is definitely a music city. There seems to be an increasing amount of engagement in Jazz from the younger generation, now more than ever why do you think so?
It’s fascinating! We were doing a festival and everyone that was booked on the bill was so interesting because of the eclectic music selection and the audience on top of everything. The one thing that has never left my memory when I was performing lat time I came out and the 3rd song I did was A-Ticket, A-Tasket for the Ella show and there were 10 little kids dancing and lots of families on the lawn with 30,000 people. Every little kid got up and went crazy, started dancing, smiling and this was definitely their song. It just fascinated me that not only the kids loved it that it was truly a family experience, which I don’t really see that much enthusiasm anywhere else.
Doing a tribute to Ella and Louis, what is it about Ella Fitzgerald that you loved the most about her?
I think so much of it has to do with the very quality of her voice. Just something about her voice the magnificent soprano, just enough wiggle and giggle and the texture of her sound. She was always kind of cool, no matter what she sang. I’ve always been very encapsulated by her voice. She was also one of the greater interpreters of the mentality of making your voice sound like an instrument, she perfected above and beyond everyone else.
It came from the fact she hung out with Disney Gillespie and he would play for her and have her sing it back. I got to know Disney in the last 2 years he was alive and he said he could play her an entire record and she could play it back for him note for note. Some blessing from above or we should all believe in reincarnation so she could come back. She could sound like a bass a trumpet like a scatting thing. When you scat its part of the tradition that it’s on the fly, whatever comes up in the head it comes up in the structure. It’s a tradition in bebop that it’ll play in the original form and the solos are all improvised and she was the best at that.
Could you imagine the world, where you weren’t involved in Jazz and what would you be doing in that world?
BORING! It’s funny you say that I think in protest whatever political protest what musicians want to do should be about withholding their talents, no music for a month. Let’s see what happens to the world. It would be a boring place! I don’t care what style of music we’re talking about, whatever you listen to because people don’t understand how much music underscores their environment. It can take you anywhere you feel like going. Celebratory, sad and if you feel like being sad you can listen to blues, and listen to the circus to be happy. Music is a tremendously powerful gift that we’ve been given. I get nervous when someone says they don’t listen to music.
Thank you for the chat and we’ll see you in Melbourne!
Take care, thank you.