Listening to the music of Pamela York—from her ever growing discography or in a performance setting—is like having a conversation with her. Pamela audaciously invites her audience to enter her life for a moment in time—for she is also a daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend. To Pamela York, what matters most is connecting with people as she tells a story through her music.
It all began with her grandmother’s piano. The powerful sound of an aging British upright piano may have been neglected in the basement, but it changed the life of a wide-eyed 8-year-old—especially after her parents surprised her with a piano of her own at their home in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Classical piano training commenced and by age 15, Pamela was playing local gigs, eventually earning an Associate Degree in Piano Performance from the prestigious Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. In 1990 she was awarded a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts which enabled her to study jazz at Berklee College of Music in Boston.
The move from her Vancouver Island home to a bustling American city began to shape the music of the artist you now hear. “I think that where you study affects how you play,” says Pamela. “Moving to Boston was a big cultural change—taking my first ride on a subway and seeing crowds of people on the streets. I grew as a person and began to play differently. This confidence enabled me to take greater risks with my musical ideas and develop my own voice.” She earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Berklee College of Music in 1991.
In 1995 she completed her Master’s Degree in Jazz from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where she held a full-tuition graduate teaching assistantship. During her stint in the Volunteer State, two men changed Pamela’s life: she studied with her “greatest mentor” Donald Brown, and she married her husband, Adam York. Since then, she has only looked straight ahead. In 2000, John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton joined Pamela on her debut album, "Blue York", an opportunity not every emerging jazz pianist can boast.
2006 marked the release of her remarkable offering, "The Way of Time", a mixture of blues, ballads, swing, and Latin grooves. Continuing her commitment to telling stories at the keyboard, Pamela offered six original tunes and six standards on "The Way of Time". The CD is perfectly titled, as its musical theme is the passing of time and the ways we change. The most notable transformation in Pamela’s life in 2003 was the birth of her daughter, Anna Katherine, whose life is celebrated on "The Way of Time".
Now in 2012, Pamela offers the listener an exciting journey with "Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals", a beautiful collection of sacred music which precedes the 20th century. Each melody has been reharmonized and reinvented into a modern context. Whether playing the ancient Celtic melody of “Be Thou My Vision,” Martin Luther’s famous Reformation hymn, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” or the moving spiritual, “Deep River,” Pamela creates an atmosphere that is sometimes reflective, sometimes rousing, but always breathtaking. Using her tradition as a jazz pianist she tackles these traditional songs with imagination and conviction, proving her salt as a skilled arranger who can inventively breathe new life into these timeless traditionals.
While other jazz artists may boast similar accomplishments—a degree from the prestigious Berklee College of Music, being a finalist in the Mary Lou Williams Jazz Piano Competition in 2006 and 2007, or winning the Great American Jazz Piano Competition in Jacksonville, Florida, in 2007—few musicians can craft album statements as complete as Pamela. She accurately describes her style as “one foot in the tradition and one in the future.” As a recent Jazzreview.com interview praised, “While playing tunes made famous by some of the legendary masters, Pamela York makes her own statement without being a pretender.” In Pamela, both newcomers and jazz aficionados will discover an exceptional talent whose future is well worth continuing to watch on her journey of ascent. As she tours throughout the United States and Canada hoping to reach new audiences through her music, Pamela York looks forward to sharing her jazzful heart with you at a live performance and through her latest offering, "Lay Down This World: Hymns and Spirituals".