MIAMI — Seeing Patti Austin perform live is akin to getting a larger-than-expected, end-of-the-year bonus.
You would have been satisfied with the anticipated largess, but you leave with a heightened sense of gratitude because of the unexpected windfall.
With Austin, you get your money’s worth, and then some.
Although she tours frequently, audiences rarely see the same show twice. The multi-talented artist is not only a gifted singer and smooth dancer, but she could probably also pull off a comedic career with her quick wit, easy warmth and familiar confidence.
A slimmed down Austin will show off her svelte body and magical voice when she joins Dave Grusin and several others at Jazz Roots: An Evening with Dave Grusin at the John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Dec. 4.
Austin told the South Florida Times in a telephone interview from San Francisco that when she started in the music industry, being multi-talented was a necessity.
“We had to be able to do it all, sing, dance, be funny,” the Grammy Award winning jazz vocalist shared.
Born to musician parents Gordon and Edna Austin, and the beneficiary of close, personal relationships with musical giants like Dinah Washington and Quincy Jones, her godparents, little Patti first took the stage at the legendary Apollo Theatre in Harlem when she was five years old. That launched a more than three-decade-long career that is still going strong.
Probably best known for her 1982 duet with James Ingram, Baby come to Me, the extremely likable Austin is “constantly on tour” thanks to her timeless talent and “great management.”
Increased energy from a radical physical transformation has undoubtedly added to Austin’s stamina. She recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of losing 145 pounds following gastric bypass surgery. Austin said her life has changed significantly since losing the weight.
“I have far more energy and I look ten years younger,” she said.
The procedure was a part of an extensive yearlong health and diet program that was about more than simply losing weight.
“It was about improving my health and saving my life.”
In a 2005 Jet magazine article, Austin explained why she decided to have the surgery.
"The doctor said I was a candidate for having a stroke or going blind or having an amputation…my mom died of complications from a stroke and she had a weight problem too…. I watched my mother die a slow and horrible death last year because of side effects from her obesity. My father suffered from obesity as well and died of complications from diabetes."
The Grusin concert is the second installment in the six-concert Jazz Roots series and will showcase a rare live performance of the musical legend’s contemporary jazz score for Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway hit, West Side Story, as well as highlight the composer’s most memorable and moving film scores.
Also joining Austin and Grusin, who wrote the score for the popular 70’s TV show, “Good Times” will be the University of Miami Frost School of Music Mancini Institute Orchestra. Also joining them will be Grammy Award winning flutist Nestor Torres, master vibraphonist Gary Burton, trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval and Latin percussionist Sammy Figueroa.
Arranged for an extended big band and orchestra, Grusin’s West Side Story will include Secada singing “Maria,” Austin singing “Tonight,” and “Jet Song,” and the classically arranged version of “I Feel Pretty,” with Torres.
Austin and Secada will team up to duet on “Somewhere” and Sandoval will perform Prelude with the big band. The show will culminate with “America,” featuring Burton, Torres, and Figueroa.
“My idea for this rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story was born of an old respect for his unique approach to what we have come to know as Broadway show music,” Grusin said. “It is amazing that 50 years means nothing when dealing with something that is timeless in this way. It was hip in 1957…and it is hip now.”
The program will also showcase highlights of Grusin’s best known cinematic themes, including his Oscar-winning original score from The Milagro Beanfield War, On Golden Pond, as well as Grusin and Austin in “Makin’ Whoopee” from The Fabulous Baker Boys; a piano solo by Grusin on “Memphis Stomp” from The Firm; and Sandoval as featured soloist in “Cuba Libre,” evoking the lush music from Havana.
“Dave Grusin is an American classic,” said Larry Rosen, co-presenter of the JAZZ ROOTS series. “After working with Dave as partners in the music business for more than 50 years producing albums, live events, and numerous videos, I felt that it would be exciting for our Jazz Roots audience to experience the musicality of this incredible artist.”
Rosen continued: “Bringing together GRAMMY-winning guest artists, virtuoso instrumentalists and the Mancini Institute Orchestra on one stage, this concert will be a night to be remembered.”
Photo by Carol Friedman. Patti Austin
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Jazz Roots: An Evening with Dave Grusin
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 4 at 8 p.m.
WHERE: John S. and James L. Knight Concert Hall, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Boulevard, Miami
COST: $25 to $125. For tickets, visit arshtcenter.org or call 305.949.6722