Pianist Bob Patin has walked a path to musical success on his own terms, though he’ll be the first to admit that the direction of that path was a surprise even to him. Born and raised in South Louisiana, Patin grew up idolizing the performers who graced the stage and screen, and whose playing filled his house with jazz, blues, country and soul. While studying piano as a child, he made a promise to himself that he would one day work in recording studios and perform in front of large crowds.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in music from McNeese State University and studying for a master’s from the vaunted University of North Texas (then the North Texas State University), he had his eyes set on New York City, New Orleans or another major jazz hub, envisioning a future full of trio gigs and European tours. But life took him down a different course. In 1981, he was called by guitarist, actor and recording artist Jerry Reed and asked to join his band in Nashville, a destination he hadn’t foreseen. It turned out to be the door that would open into a rewarding career in music. For the next 20 years, between recording studio dates in Nashville, Bob toured with various artists, most notably The Everly Brothers, Crystal Gayle, Jerry Reed, and Ray Price. He has performed with lots of other artists, including The Beach Boys, Willie Nelson, Leon Russell, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, jazz trombonist Bill Watrous, Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, Alabama, Vince Gill, Loretta Lynn and many others.
Patin is now back in Austin, Texas, where he continues to perform and record. He has maintained an earnest sideline as a jazz pianist, recording numerous albums in the straightahead vein — including one that reimagined hits by The Beatles. His latest album, Singularity, is perhaps his most musically sophisticated yet, and attests to his abundant technical skill and harmonic mastery (he credits the harmonic innovator Bill Evans as a major influence). Today’s Song of the Day, “Dolphin Dance,” opens on Patin’s solo piano, which announces the melody in plush harmonic voicings before drums, guitar and saxophone kick in, ushering the song into a crisp, dynamic swing. Patin’s solo uses expert pacing and texture to create a sense of depth and complexity. It’s built of equal parts Oscar Peterson and Keith Jarrett — quick and vigorous yet probing and sweet.
Bob Patin performs in the house rhythm section every Monday night at the Elephant Room in Austin. On October 6, he’ll be appearing there with his trio featuring drummer Tom Brechtlein, a former member of Chick Corea’s band during the pianists Secret Agent period.