Hilbert Circle Theatre; Jan. 16-18
Vivacious Patti Austin painted an endearing spoken and sung portrait of the notoriously shy Ella Fitzgerald, prompting spontaneous outbursts of applause from an audience well acquainted with both artists, as well as Austin's meticulously researched 2002 Concord CD For Ella
. Austin, putting her own interpretation on Fitzgerald rather than mimicking her, particularly pleased with "Paganini," "Tisket Tasket," "But Not For Me" and "The Man I Love." Underscoring Fitzgerald's forte as a scat artist, Austin introduced "How High the Moon" as "Me doing Ella doing Charlie Parker." The winner of 13 Grammy Awards and known worldwide as the "First Lady of Song," Fitzgerald is recognized as one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century, whose interpretations of the Great American Songbook continue to inspire. Austin, like Fitzgerald, made her debut at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, but under very different circumstances and a full generation apart. Her homage earns praise, as do the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra players who sounded as though they always tour with Austin and her combo. Steven Reineke and the ISO, with superb big band guest artists sitting in, showcased a first act of favorites, including the wonderful Nelson Riddle arrangements for "I've Got You Under My Skin," "Unforgettable" and "What's New," marked by ovation-worthy playing by trombonist Blake Schlabach.