Listening to the music of Pamela York—from her CDs Blue York and The Way of Time, or in performance—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 several years later Pamela began to play at local jam sessions. During high school, her ear became enthralled with the sounds of jazz, especially Bill Evans and her fellow Canadians Oscar Peterson and Diana Krall. 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.
Her 2006 CD, The Way of Time, contains a mixture of blues, ballads, swing, and Latin grooves. Continuing her commitment to telling stories at the keyboard, Pamela offers six original tunes and six standards on The Way of Time with bassist Lynn Seaton, drummer Sebastian Whittaker, and guitarist Mike Wheeler. "Since we perform in and around Houston so often together, we were able to do eight of the 12 tracks in one take," Pamela says. "But since each member is such a good listener, the instinctive spontaneity of the music is captured, too, especially in the solos." 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. The blues shuffle, "Mama's Midnight Hour," reminisces on the rare nocturnal windows of privacy a mother can devote to her personal or professional goals once her child falls asleep. In the lyrical ballad, "All Too Soon (For Anna)," the conversation between the piano and bass evoke the relationship between parent and child, as time leads to growth that paradoxically brings both remorse and delight. Through the changed meter of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," Pamela musically highlights the spiritual's lyrics from deep despair to confident hope.
Pamela's roots in classical music are nowhere more evident than on her solo piano tour de force, her riveting interpretation of Duke Ellington's "Caravan." The soulful guitar of Mike Wheeler serenades the listener on Pamela's elegant Jobim-like bossa nova, "Counting the Stars," and the brooding bass of Lynn Seaton makes "April in Paris" especially memorable. Pamela's singing voice is heard on the two standards "East of the Sun" and "You've Changed." These candid, unadorned interpretations leave the listener wishing for more than just two vocal tracks.
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 York. 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 watching. 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.