There's something to be said for doing what you do and doing
it well. Pamela Williams may be creating a niche of her own
by continuing to give us hook-laden original smooth jazz
instrumentals while some musicians jump bandwagons from chill
to covers or try to distance themselves from the genre entirely.
She's done it again on Elixir.
This is what real smooth jazz sounds like. These are songs
that get under your skin, and there is something downright
joyous in the way she plays, even on the slow jams.
Since last year's Sweet Saxations,
she has moved from L.A. to Atlanta, where she did some of
the recording and mixing at her home studio. This time around
she produced most of the tracks. Most of the musicians who
were present on her last two Shanachie releases are on this
one, including saxophonist David Mann, who wrote and produced
three songs. Elixir sounds looser,
less produced, and warmer. She's stretching out and improvising
more and there are some standout solos from guitarists David
Matos and Michael Sims. Mann's "Forbidden Fruit," the
opening track, sets the tone. It has that lush elegance that
has become her trademark, but it's got spirit to it too.
The other Mann compositions, "Positive Vibe" and "A
Toast to Eternity" are both infectious and effervescent.
Several tracks give her a chance to step away from that sensuous/silky
label she's been living under and just blow. "A Jam
for Pam" is just that. Keyboard player Lenny Nance has
crafted a song that gives her a Grover groove to improvise
around. She plays tenor and alto as a one-woman horn section
on "In The Cut," a slice of bluesy funk with a
simmering backbeat. Rejuvenation is bright and energized.
Even the title song, with its sensual ambiance, has a bouncy
It's been 10 years since her debut CD, Saxtress,
was released. Over the years, she has done some excellent
projects and had some radio hits, but being branded as the
queen of seductive sax can be limiting. Anyone who
has seen her live can tell you she's always been more than
that. With Elixir, it sounds like
she is being more assertive about moving beyond it in the
studio too. The result is pure pleasure.
- Shannon West