Augustine swings into town for Hometown Heroes gig

Joe Augustine plans to turn Ford Family Recital Hall into a swingin’ cabaret for the next Hometown Heroes concert.

The Howland-based pianist, who has recorded more than 15 albums and toured nationwide, will be backed by Dave Morgan, bass, and Jim Rupp, drums.

“These guys love that hard swinging trio sound,” Augustine said. “They give new meaning to swing. They have the jazz field down to a science. All three of us love playing in a trio setting.”

The concert will mix jazz standards and originals from Augustine’s latest CD, “Remembering You.” Augustine, who is part of Steinway’s international artist roster, is an artist-in-residence in the jazz studies program at the University of Akron. The university is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to purchase 82 Steinway & Sons instruments for the school, and as part of that effort Augustine wrote songs specifically for some of the contributors. Those tracks are included on “Remembering You,” and Augustine said the idea proved to be so popular that Steinway brought him to New York for a concert / presentation for other schools.

Saturday’s concert also will feature vocalist Janet Opritza-Davis, who will salute the music of Barbra Streisand.

“We worked together 30 years ago,” Augustine said. “She was great then and even better now. It will be done in a fun way. If you watch Diana Krall do a show, it’ll be done in the same way with my role as accompanist. I love doing this. I’d rather be in the background, making her sound good.”

In addition to Streisand favorites like “The Way We Were” and “Evergreen,” she also will be singing Michel Legrand’s “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” a vocally challenging song that Augustine suggested.

“I wanted her to raise the bar in regards to some of the material,” he said. “I chose some stuff that I thought she would do a great job with.”

Augustine said Patricia Syak from the Youngstown Symphony Society approached him nearly two year ago about putting together a concert for its Hometown Heroes series. He has played with the full Youngstown Symphony Orchestra before, but this concert would give him an opportunity to do something different.

“I’ve never really done this in Youngstown with a small group before,” he said.

And based on the response last month for a similar concert as part of E.J. Thomas Hall’s cabaret series in Akron, Augustine said he thinks local audiences will like it.

“It’s a really fast-paced 90 minutes of bang bang bang.”