By Ron Hart | Published June 2018
Exploring the African-American experience through music is something Tiffany Austin might consider a family tradition. The singer’s brother, rapper Ras Kass, titled his debut album, Soul On Ice, after a revolutionary 1968 book by Eldridge Cleaver on the subject. Like her sibling, the Bay Area vocalist aims to educate as much as entertain. And on Unbroken, her second album, she calls up some hard truths about history, while celebrating perseverance amid sociopolitical strife.
A classy knot of 12 compositions holds Unbroken together and features the razor-sharp ensemble of pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, drummer Carl Allen, trombonist Mitch Butler, tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery and trumpeter Ashlin Parker. The album finds Austin growing both as a singer and lyricist. But don’t let the swing of “Greenwood” deceive you; there’s weight in those words, its title evoking a neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, destroyed during a white race riot in 1921. In 2018, West Coast vocal jazz simply gets no better than Tiffany Austin.
Unbroken: Blues Creole (For Amede); Greenwood; Ain’t No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down); You Must Believe In Spring; The Blessing; Con Alma; King Of Pleasure; Better Git It In Your Soul; Someday We’ll All Be Free; Music’s Gonna Meet Me There; Resolution; Keep Your Eyes On The Prize. (60:01)
Personnel: Tiffany Austin, vocals; Ashlin Parker, trumpet; Mitch Butler, trombone; Teodross Avery, tenor saxophone; Cyrus Chestnut, piano; Rodney Whitaker, bass; Carl Allen, drums.