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Patti Austin keeps the music playing, no matter the style

| Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Singer Patti Austin
Singer Patti Austin

Patti Austin does so many kinds of shows, she has put them into categories to remind her what to do.

“We have code names for shows,” the Grammy award-winning singer says. “We don't fool around.”

The code name for her Sept. 27 show at the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild on the North Side is “Quartet Jazz,” which she says allows her to do “all the stuff I like to do with a quartet.”

It seems an appropriate way to open the season of jazz concerts at the North Side venue.

But while the show will be heavily jazz-oriented, she says it also will allow her to sing some of the other tunes for which she is famous.

For instance, she won a Grammy for her “Avant Gershwin” album with the WDR Big Band from Germany, but she is probably better known to pop fans for “How Do You Keep the Music Playing,” a hit she did with James Ingram in 1983.

Austin, 64, says the variety in her music means she does shows with simply a pianist, with a trio, a quartet and, for pop shows, a sextet and three background singers. She has also performed with the Count Basie, Duke Ellington and WDR bands and with symphonies.

The variety in her music also shows in her album work. Following the Grammy-winning album, she did the more pop-flavored “Sound Advice” release. Now, she is working on Ellington and Cole Porter tributes with the WDR band and a project with Rod Temperton, the English songwriter-producer most famous for his work with Michael Jackson.

She says that variety comes from her “baby-boomer” upbringing when radio stations roamed all over the musical dial.

“So, what did I hear on my radio?” she asks. “It went from Led Zeppelin to Louis (Armstrong) to Marvin Gaye to Frank (Sinatra) to the Philadelphia Sound to some Ella (Fitzgerald).”

She regrets how “the radio business has made sure everything is the same” so listeners are not exposed to the richness of music.

For that reason, she says, audiences of her generation are more open to all forms of music. She says she did a concert that also featured Earth Wind and Fire and blues star Keb' Mo', and the audience of that age range “loved it.”

“The rest of the world gets it more than we do,” she says. “It's time to wake up, America.”

While the “quartet jazz” show she has in store for the North Side obviously focuses on that genre, she knows her fans appreciate her eclectic nature. She is sure they want to hear some of the other sides of Patti Austin.

“And I have learned they don't want to hear a medley,” she adds with a laugh. “But that's OK. Every time I hear the intro to ‘How Do You Keep the Music Playing' I just say to myself, ‘Man, this is so ... good.' ”

Bob Karlovits is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7852

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