Tiffany Austin – Nothing But Soul

nothing but soul(Con Alma Music)

Hoagy Carmichael is the Composer of the Week on BBC Radio 3 this week. In the past few days we have heard Sarah Vaughan singing Hoagy, Nat King Cole singing Hoagy and, of course, a lot of Hoagy himself singing and playing Hoagy.

For a contemporary take on the man’s sterling stuff, let’s turn to Tiffany Austin. Austin is from California and nearly became a lawyer before feeling the irresistible pull of the music. She has a strong, clear soulful delivery and sounds as comfortable singing soul, funk and R’n’B as she is singing jazz.

This album boasts six Hoagy Carmichael songs in its programme of nine and another two that Hoagy sang – Ruskin and Sullivan’s I May Be Wrong (But I Think You’re Wonderful) and, amazingly, Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line. The closer is a duet with tenor saxophonist Howard Riley on their co-composed Téte-À-Téte, based on the chord changes of Charlie Parker’s Confirmation.

Austin shows her versatility of tone and attack on the opener, Stardust, getting slurry, shimmering and gutsy within a line or two. Riley, with marvellous bar-walker swagger, provides the ideal interjections and a sweet solo.

Baltimore Oriole gets a backbeat heavy arrangement worthy of Gregory Porter, I Get Along Without You Very Well gets the ballad treatment as a duo with pianist Glen Pearson, and Skylark gets a funky bass line and a leaning towards hip-hop phrasing before stretching out luxuriously in its middle eight.  Georgia gets an unexpected coda with a descending figure which calls to mind Betty Carter’s I’m Yours, You’re Mine.

The song itself may not be included on this debut album, but it’s Carter’s version of Jazz (Ain’t Nothing But Soul) that is Austin’s declared inspiration and hence it’s the album’s title.

A strong and assured debut, and a singer to keep an eye on.

Categories: CD review

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