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Nothing But Soul

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Nothing But Soul
Nothing But Soul


Tiffany Austin had sung on three continents - around her native Los Angeles while attending college, then for a year in London, and eventually for five and a half years in Tokyo - before setting music aside upon being accepted in 2009 at the University of California's Boalt School of Law in Berkeley. Yet the itch left by the music bug never went away, and a year into her law studies, she enrolled on a full scholarship at the nearby Jazzschool (now the California Jazz Conservatory), where her refreshingly original singing style attracted the attention of such innovative young San Francisco Bay Area bandleaders as bassist Marcus Shelby and tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley. Although she did earn a Juris Doctorate in 2012, while her peers were taking the bar exam Austin decided instead to devote her life to her first love. Regarded as one of the fastest rising jazz singers in Northern California with a tradition-rooted yet thoroughly modern style, Tiffany Austin is now stepping forward with her debut CD, Nothing But Soul, on her own Con Alma Music label. The album is the outgrowth of a November 2013 SFJAZZ "Hotplate" concert for which she reimagined compositions by the great American songwriter Hoagy Carmichael. For the recording, which was produced by saxophonist Howard Wiley, Tiffany was joined by bassist Ron Belcher, drummer Sly Randolph, and Glen Pearson, one of the busiest and perhaps most versatile pianists in the Bay Area. Nothing But Soul is made up of six Carmichael tunes - 'Baltimore Oriole', 'Stardust', 'Skylark', 'I Get Along Without You Very Well', 'Georgia On My Mind', and 'Sing Me A Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)' - as well as two non-Carmichael numbers that he recorded as a vocalist: Henry Sullivan and Harry Ruskin's 'I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)'; Johnny Cash's 'I Walk the Line'; and 'Tete a Tete', a wordless a cappella duet by Austin and Wiley based on the chord changes of Charlie Parker's 'Confirmation'. Tiffany Austin was born in Los Angeles and spent most of her time growing up at her grandmother's house in the city's Watts neighborhood, where she was first exposed to jazz on the radio. She studied classical voice while attending Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. During her junior year at Cal State Northridge, from which she would graduate with a B.A. in creative writing in 2003, she went to England on an exchange program and began singing in London clubs. Back in Southern California, she joined a disco oldies band before moving to Tokyo in early 2004. She spent the next five and a half years there singing a variety of music, including some pop, jazz, and gospel music, six nights a week. In 2009, Austin returned to the United States to attend U.C. Berkeley Law School, with an emphasis in entertainment law and copyright. Each year while attending law school, Austin would book a Japan tour during session breaks. During one of these breaks, in the spring of 2010, she performed with vibraphonist Roy Ayers's band as a featured and backing vocalist at Motion Blue in Yokohama. After law school graduation, she found herself at a crossroad. "I could have gone into a law firm, which can be rewarding, particularly if you're helping an underserved community, but my calling has always been to do music," Austin says. "I've been telling people that I want to lead a more soulful life. I don't just want to make decisions based on money. I want to feel connected to my art and my community. I want to really be in touch with my soul. Since graduating, I've started my own music company (Con Alma Music), put together my album, deepened the study of my crafts (vocalist, lyricist, songwriter), and began independently studying harmony. I feel like every bit of my education and experience has come together, in a marvelously unlikely way, to make me an artist." In Northern California Tiffany has appeared at the SFJAZZ Center, Yoshi's in both Oakland and San Francisco, the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival in San Francisco, and the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and in January 2014 traveled to New York to perform with choreographer Nicole Klaymoon's Embodiment Project at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Besides working with Marcus Shelby and Howard Wiley, Austin has sung with the bands Orgone, and MoonCandy, and has recorded with, among others, Orgone, The Monophonics, The Droptones, and on UnderCover Presents Sly and the Family Stone's Stand! tribute project. Austin, who also teaches voice technique privately and at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond, California, received a 2014 artist's residency at San Francisco's Red Poppy Art House to develop her Creole music project. The project was inspired by memories of her grandmother, who spoke Creole French, and by recordings from the 1920s and '30s by Louisiana Creole accordionist Amede Ardoin, whose innovative style had a profound impact on the development of both Cajun and zydeco musical styles. "I couldn't believe that such an influential artist's name wasn't more prevalent in musical circles," says Austin. Although Austin's debut album consists almost entirely of songs written by or associated with Hoagy Carmichael, her inspiration for titling it Nothing But Soul was the Norman Mapp song "Jazz (Ain't Nothin' But Soul)," recorded by Betty Carter in 1961.


  1. Name
  2. Stardust
  3. Baltimore Oriole
  4. I Get Along Without You Very Well
  5. I May Be Wrong (But I Think You're Wonderful)
  6. Skylark
  7. I Walk The Line
  8. Georgia
  9. Sing Me A Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)
  10. Tete-A-Tete
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