There are a lot of odds to beat in the recording industry, and it’s not often that a young, female debut artist is able to do just that. But saxophonist Pamela Williams is about to prove once again that she’s made of just the right stuff to catapult her into the spotlight yet a second time with her new Enhanced CD release on Heads Up International, Eight Days of Ecstasy (HUCD 3043).
Named the “Top New Female Contemporary Jazz Artist” of 1996, Pamela’s Saxtress spent over 5 months on the Billboard charts. She was also the darling of Smooth Jazz radio, and Urban AC stations embraced the hit single Secret Garden (featuring Patti LaBelle and Teena Marie) and didn’t let go!
The follow up to her debut smash Saxtress , Eight Days of Ecstasy delivers an intoxicating blend of smooth jazz, hip-hop and urban-laced grooves. Pamela’s material selection for her new release crosses a multitude of boundaries. “The new record is diverse like Saxtress. I like to incorporate lots of different styles into my playing. And this time I got a chance to do some writing and producing, which was very satisfying,“ states Williams.
Pamela’s growth as a player, writer and now a producer is certainly evidenced on this second release. Her “saxuality” on the self-penned title track Eight Days of Ecstasy demonstrates Pamela’s ability to lure the listener into a musical world all unto itself. Another mood-provoking cut, I’ll Be There For You, is a heartstring-tugging vocal ballad where she is joined by Darnel Alexander and David Booker of the R&B group 2nd Nature. Her collaboration with fellow saxophonist Gerald Albright on Scarlet is a groove-driven highlight, and Pump Up The Heat and Escape To Paradise finds Williams collaborating once again with Saxtress producer Martin Walters.The remakes of Still In Love sung by Debra Laws and I’ve Got Love On My Mind sung by 2nd Nature are sure bets to follow in the footsteps of Williams’ “Secret Garden” success.
Williams has lived in Los Angeles since 1989, but it was her native Philadelphia--an artistic hotbed that everyone from John Coltrane to Teddy Pendergrass to the Fresh Prince has called home -- that did so much to shape her musical personality. “Philadelphia was a great place to learn music because the city’s music scene was really happening when I was growing up,” Pamela recalls. “Philadelphia International Records was big and everyone was recording in Philly--The O-Jays, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, the Stylistics, Patti LaBelle and Grover Washinton, Jr.”
Williams had been listening to soul and R & B religiously since childhood when George Benson’s Breezin’ LP, with its contemporary rhythms, ignited her interest in jazz. When Grover Washington, Jr. released Mr. Magic and she heard its cutting-edge blend of jazz and R & B, Williams’ became interested in the saxophone. “He laughs when I tell him that I learned to play the saxophone listening to his records, but it’s true. I’d listen to Mr. Magic or Live at the Bijou and copy his solos. I think that when an artist finds his or her own style, it comes from having so many different influences. I loved everyone from the Crusaders to the Ohio Players.”
Playing with the Martin Luther King Jazz Ensemble at King High School in Philly’s historic Germantown section, Williams was required to embrace both electric jazz-funk and hardcore bebop. Playing in the Ensemble’s rhythm section were the improvisors who went on to become “Quiet Storm” favorites Pieces of a Dream.
By the time Williams left Philly’s rowhouses and cheesesteaks for L.A.’s sun, surf and smog, she had toured extensively and internationally backing fellow Philadelphian Patti LaBelle. “My success truly stems from Patti’s graciousness,” says Williams. “She has wholeheartedly supported me and built me up as an artist. I have learned so much from Patti. She is an amazing woman.”
While many Philly musicians have made New York their home, Williams chose L.A. primarily because of the opportunities it offers in television and film. Since moving west, Williams has performed on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show and on Rick Dees’ Into the Night, to name a few. In addition to touring with Teena Marie and working with Prince, Babyface and Chante Moore, the “Saxtress” has appeared in a wide variety of videos by artists ranging from soul veteran Barry White (“Come On”) to rapper/actress Queen Latifah (“Hard Times”).
And when she’s not touring or writing music, Pamela has a chance to pursue another one of her talents--painting. “I’ve been painting since I was 3 or 4 years old when my dad first taught me to draw,” says Pamela. “I was painting for a long time before I ever picked up the saxophone.” Pamela now does a couple of shows a year as well as commission work. A special selection of her works are included on the Enhanced CD portion of Eight Days Of Ecstasy.“My painting is similar to my music in that I draw from many different styles. I incorporate abstract art as well as impressionism. It’s really a melting pot of styles, just like my music.”
But no matter the style of art she embraces, it is apparent that Williams is unlikely to be confined to any one genre. “Some people feel like if you aren’t playing straight-ahead jazz or classical music, you aren’t a serious musician,” she explains. “I don’t agree with that statement in its entirety. I enjoy performing in a multitude of musical styles from Latin music, jazz, R & B, hip-hop and house.” And this versatility is what shines through in Pamela’s music. So sit back, relax and prepare to be seduced once again by the “Saxtress” herself on Eight Days of Ecstasy.