Sunday, September 6, 2015

Pamela Williams-Saxtress (1996)

ORIGINAL POSTING DATE: September 6, 2015

In addition to getting the ball rolling with some past recommendations, I also have been wanting to listen in on some oldies but goodies from my own music collection. It further occurred to me that I have been missing my smooth jazz for quite a while. The occasional few jazz tunes I play for myself at home when winding down for the day—or, conversely, getting a jump start on a brand new morning—isn't always totally efficient, so a good hour or so is in order. The remedy for this was "Saxtress", the marvelous debut album by saxophonist Pamela Williams. It reunites me with the first—and I believe, the only one to date—American female smooth jazz artist whose musical talents that I've ever listened to, and that occurred with Pamela's rendition of the timeless soul classic, "The Secret Garden". Originally an all-male collaboration between Quincy Jones, Barry White, James Ingram, Al B. Sure and El DeBarge, this 1993 all-female rendition featured the all-star line-up of Patti LaBelle, the late Teena Marie and a singer I'm still unfamiliar with named Pat Peterson. And it's all good, because it sounds so good! Patti's wailing vocals, in particular, are stunning—just as they always are—and Teena Marie's unmistakable voice is right on point with the sweet sounds of the Saxtess's saxophone. I've always like that part of the song that goes 'come on, come on, come on, come on' and 'sho' you're right', which is the last line sung when he main chorus changes near the end o the song. The ladies definitely do this classic total justice, and their rendition is a definite must-have for the old-school soul music collector! Lady T, as the late Teena Marie was often called, comes back to lend her voice a second time on the warming "Latin Lullaby", a song I hadn't always made a part of my Teena Marie collection of favorites, but sounds quite pleasant with a fresh pair of ears tuning in after a couple of decades; it was nice to hear her singing solo again. Although two other well-known artists in the contemporary soul genre on't make all-star appearances on this album along with Patti and Lady T, the all-male soul troupe, ALL-4-ONE, and the Queen Of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, are represented well with Pamela's smooth instrumental jazz interpretations of their unforgettable hits, "I Can Love You Like That" and "Natural Woman", respectively. Actually, it would've been great to hear Pamela's scintillating saxophone playing with the aforementioned artists on the mic—or any other talented soul singer, for that matter—and have both the vocal and the non-vocal versions appearing on the album as an added treat for the listener. At least on "Natural Woman", you do get to hear a group of singers collectively performing part of the main chorus, which I do like very much. Then other than the opening upbeat cut, "A Matter Of Time", which features a female vocalist singing the title lyrics throughout, I just had a sublime of a good time taking in the jazzy upbeat r&b grooves in perfect sync with Pamela's skilled saxophoning, whether it was "Castine" or "Ladies Night" or the title track or the calm and peaceful slow number, "Angels Among Us", that wraps it all up:

1. A Matter Of Time
2. I Can Love You Like That
3. Castine
4. The Secret Garden [feat. Pat Peterson, Patti LaBelle & Teena Marie]
5. Natural Woman
6. Ladies Night
7. The Matador And The Maiden
8. Latin Lullaby
9. The Saxtress
10. Slow Burn
11. Angels Among Us

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