Smitty: Well, I am so happy to have a wonderful singer and songwriter joining me at Jazz Monthly.com today. She possesses the effulgence of voice, the true voice of elegance, grace and style. She’s now a part of a wonderful new project that is simply fantastic, a very nice collaboration of great music in recognition of Luther Vandross, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association. The title of the record is appropriately called Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II. Here to talk about this great record and her incredible career, please welcome the fantastic, amazing and so talented Ms. Patti Austin. Patti, how are you?
Patti Austin (PA): I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Smitty: I’m fantastic, thank you. Well, you’ve done it again. You’re a part of something special, this great album.
PA: Well, isn’t that a lovely thing to say? The only thing I knew that was going to be special about it was that it was for my very dear and beautiful brother and friend, Luther, but I had no idea it was going to turn out as fabulous as it did. Because at the time I worked on it, I didn’t know who else was involved in the project. So it was a great surprise to hear the entire project completed and see how cool it was. Then I was really glad I had done it.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Absolutely. Well, now, just to back up for a second, Patti, please tell me, how does a four-year-old become a professional and a recording star in her teens? You’re just amazing.
PA: Wow, you don’t want the whole story ‘cause how long is this show?
Smitty: As much as I wish you could, please give us the intrinsic version. (Laughs.)
PA: You want the Reader’s Digest version of the story.
Smitty: There ya go. (Laughs.)
PA: Very short and sweet reason is because Dinah Washington was my godmother, Quincy Jones was my godfather, and my dad was a jazz musician who played trombone and worked with Dinah for many years and, as a result, I was able to meet her when I was a little girl and I met her at the Apollo Theater and she dared me to go on stage and sing, and I did and that’s what started my career.
PA: That’s the very quick version.
Smitty: Yes, and you just didn’t know how blessed you were going to be over the years, did ya? (Laughs.)
PA: Not really, although I did have a feeling that whatever gift I was given was unique and that I needed to take care of it and cherish it and be very grateful for it, so that attitude has always served me well.
Smitty: Yes, that’s a great attitude to have. Now you’re, what, 16-17 albums later.…
PA: Actually, we’re up to 19 now that are my own. Now there’s a whole bunch of other ones that I’m on with other people.
Smitty: Yeah, and some great music too. So talk to me a little bit about your first reaction when you were approached about this great project, Forever, For Always, For Luther Volume II.
PA: Well, I mean, the reason that I did it was because it was in fact for Luther and I loved him madly and we were dear friends, and it just gave me an opportunity to pay homage to some of his work and I was most happy to be asked to specifically sing “So Amazing” because it’s another one of those fabulous tunes that he had written and which for some reason a lot of people don’t know that Luther wrote a lot of his own material.
PA: And so I was particularly happy to be asked to sing something that he had in fact composed, and that was really the basic reason that I said yes so quickly.
Smitty: Wow, so was it your selection or was that just….
PA: No, everyone was kind of assigned material by the producers of the project.
Smitty: Oh, so you were just stoked when you heard that, huh?
PA: Yeah, I was very happy to hear that that was the choice.
Smitty: I love that song, great tune.
PA: Isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Smitty: Yes, and you had some great cats backing you up: Darrell Crooks on guitar.…
PA: Oh yeah.
Smitty: Just amazing people involved in this project.
Smitty: Yeah, so when you heard the finished project, what were your thoughts? You mentioned earlier that you were glad to be a part of this great record, but talk a little about your feelings when you heard the complete project.
PA: Well, actually, it ended up being a very emotional experience when I listened to it. I pretty much lost it when I heard “So Amazing,” not because I was singing either so badly or so magnificently, but it just made a bunch of memories rush through my brain, and all of them good and funny and fun, and so it made me miss my brother even more, and then after hearing that and completely breaking down, one of the people at the record company said “Do you wanna hear ‘Superstar’?” and I said “No, not if I’m breaking down from this. I’ll probably have a heart attack if I listen to ‘Superstar’.” And I said “Okay, okay, I’m straight, I’m fine” and heard the first two words and lost it again, so that was pretty much my reaction the first time I heard the record.