As one journey’s down the ivory keys of a piano one stroke at a time, each note is an attitude, however, when harmonies are in union with others they become a relationship soon to develop a story, the author is the musician and the beneficiary is the fan. Simple concept, but not so simple to orchestrate So let me familiarize you with one of jazz’s grand ivory authors Ms. Pamela Hines!
From the cunningly complex arrangement of "Return" to the ever-evolving emotions of "Very" this unclassifiable artist, Pamela Hines latest project from Spicerack Records Return is a lasting effort. Ms. Hines gifts are known and the jazz populace is becoming more accustomed to her unique strokes with every spin, however, who is Ms. Hines the person? What motivates her passion, lust, and intelligence in every aspect of her craft? Ms. Hines is what she is, because she is technically and musically secure in the world around her
I first became aware of Ms. Hines when in 2005 I reviewed April Hall and Ms. Hines release of Hall sings Hines; my curiosity took flight from that point. The vocals were a compliment, but the instrumentation and fluid manipulation of the keys from Ms. Hines keys were striking. Her timing is remarkable as she compliments each instrument sharing the cut.
Make no mistake my dear jazz junkies; this is a very intelligent musician, one who pursues knowledge In return, Ms. Hines offers substance in theory and direction. Her originals are fresh and vibrant with many changes driven by her experimental nature. Her arrangements with regard to standards, if I may and I will, are innovative with a deep perspective. A gift of execution and ability to convey (which is on higher plains than most in her field!) is the cornerstone of her essence. I see so much more in future endeavors from this imaginative gem With a journey that has brought many moving storms, she survives, for she believes for she listens and executes, and she blossoms, for she seeds her craft
On stage she is a galvanized presence on the bench with John Lockwood (bass), Bob Gullotti (drums) and in this latest spin, Jerry Bergonzi (sax) whose sound is captivating with his tenor sax However, between sets she is many so many slices have to peel off the multi-dimensional Ms. Pamela Hines
The First Note from Pamela about Pamela
The two main motivators in my jazz journey... I have been a cancer survivor since 1990. The Hodgkin’s disease taught me that I DON"T have all the time in the world and when I am acutely aware of how much time I may not have, it makes me grateful for each day and kicks my butt to get going on the next item, whether I have the money or not, because I don't know when the journey will end. So, I think, well, I hope I have this year so I better get going on this next CD. In a way, the experience has given me the strength to move away from anything that doesn't contribute to the music, health of my family or faith, because I REALLY DON"T KNOW HOW MUCH TIME THERE IS.
The second motivator is the death of my son in 1998 from a rare skin disease. It has taught me to appreciate what I do have and to honor his life by doing the best I can with the time I have been given. It has taught me that even when you pray; the prayer may not be answered in the way you were hoping and to have faith that you have been given what you need, not what you always want. But we have been given strength for our entire journey. It has taught me to appreciate my two daughters and to value the time I have with them. It has taught me how life can change in a second, so enjoy it when it's good! These two events keep me grounded, humble and grateful.
JazzReview: Bill Evans once stated "It bugs me when people try to analyze jazz as an intellectual theorem. It’s not, its feeling." With that said how do you feel when the populace not only tries to analyze jazz, but your work?
Pamela Hines: Evans also spoke of the disciplined practice philosophy he had to carry him through nights when he did not initially "feel" like being on stage. The practice, or intellectual study, comes out as feeling during performance and the two work hand in hand, because the more you are able to add new things to your pallet, through initial intellectual study, the greater chance of portraying your feelings through music.
I don't mind reviewers who analyze my work, who are true journalists or musicians. Such reviewers have given me a lot of insight into how I can convey certain elements better. Those that review, who are not writers or jazz scholars always end up shooting themselves in the foot in reviews with poor phrasing and statements that reveal a real lack of knowledge about jazz and jazz history.
That being said, when a jazz musician is in that "Divine" zone, as Evans was so many times, and where I always seek and have enjoyed when it happens, there are no words to describe it. It is pure feeling, pure joy.
JazzReview: How do you look back at the past seven projects you have done and examine your progression?
Pamela Hines: I think I have gotten better at recording. I was so nervous and I realized the issue of recording itself had to be overcome. Distractions and events sometimes take away from prep time, or we sometimes allow it. I feel better about the last few recordings.
JazzReview: Talk about your writing and the metamorphosis it has gone through.
Pamela Hines: That is still ongoing. I enjoy writing accessible tunes and more complex tunes. That is one good thing about being an Indie...I don't have to be in any sort of box
JazzReview: You’re described as a sensitive artist, explain why that perception is out there, and do you agree?
Pamela Hines: I think those two words go hand in hand. Maybe an artist comes across as crass or hard, but it's a cover. If you're built to be creative, sensitivity comes with it. Then there's the whole issue of deeply personal art being subjected to public opinion, as it must be.
JazzReview: Growing up, as with most artists there was an epiphany that brought them to the craft they embraced. Did such a moment occur in your past and how did it begin your journey?
Pamela Hines: I think it was more of an ongoing message. In order to play jazz for a living, (with teaching too of course), you have to accept certain things about what you need to do in life. It's not going to be 9-5 and if it were, or when it is, it's claustrophobic. Others are built for that. I think it has to do more with accepting who you are and when you commit yourself fully to that, it starts to flow. I also have learned to focus all prayer, intent, perseverance, attitude and time on only a few things, so that I can make enough money to help support my family and be happy as an artist at the same time. I also accept the Peck philosophy that life can be hard much of the time, even when you're doing what you love.
JazzReview: You have a talent; it’s said to bridge the modern and traditional harmonies and rhythms through your compositions. Some even say it is rare in today’s jazz stage. How do execute that gift and why do you feel it may be a rare process?
Pamela Hines: I try not to put myself in a box. My intent is to present the music. Sometimes I feel the urge toward mainstream and other times more edgy. There's no one behind a desk telling me not to do either type of composition. But if there were, someone telling me I could reach more people by writing a certain way, I would. I just want to give people music that will inspire them or create enjoyment for them.
JazzReview: "Don't play what's there, play what's not there." those are the words of the great Miles Davis on improvisation, a gift you’re very well known for. Talk about how you approach that part of your talent and when you do know it’s there
Pamela Hines: I like going outside then coming back inside. I really like the Bergonzi philosophy of rhythmic variation in addition to melodic ideas. I think that helps a pianist play what's possible. His educational books on improvisation are outstanding. Clear, lots of examples, play-along, etc.
I have to practice daily for the "voice" to be there when it comes time to perform. I know that sounds obvious, but in the early days, I met players who looked at practicing as something unpleasant. I felt freakish, because I loved to practice. Then, when I got to New England Conservatory in 1996 and met Danilo Perez, who had the same passion for practice and exploration, I felt like I had come home. Practice, for me, creates the divine zone when I am performing
JazzReview: On your new release the trio is in rare and top-level form. Talk about the artists that joined you on Return.
Pamela Hines: We have been playing together for a little longer now and have become more familiar with each other. Bob and John are masters. No matter where they go with the Fringe, they pack the house. They are masters.
JazzReview: Also on the project is legendary saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, how did he impact the sound on the cut "Very" and his influence on its development.
Pamela Hines: Jerry brought "Very" to a new level. We had a really out cut that I wish I could have also included where he and Bob did a duo thing in the middle. Maybe I'll be able to use it on something later. What can you say about Jerry? What words describe a person who has reached the master level that he has?
I've heard him on his own stuff and on the Sofferman CDs, etc. I just feel blessed to have him on the project. It allowed us to follow where the music was taking us instead of staying in a box.
JazzReview: Staying on the cut "Very" it seems to be a multi-faceted piece. It carries with a number of different personalities. How difficult was this to record and how was the experience in the studio getting the final tape down?
Pamela Hines: When you record with those guys, it doesn't take much time. We had the choice of four cuts and we did the quartet session in 3 hours. You're talking about people who have been doing this for many years. I don't remember recording with any Boston musicians that have ever been unprofessional. We all know what it takes to be a jazz musician in the first place.
I have such respect for the musicians who have been there for years and are still playing...Marian, Hank Jones, Dave Brubeck, Paul Broadnax, etc. Sometimes these treasures have a tough time getting to the piano, but once they get there, watch out! It tells me that you can be 70-90 years old and still be an active player. It also tells you, that those musicians are still sitting down every day to practice, still keeping the music going.
JazzReview: Rodgers and Hart "My Heart Stood Still" is such a smooth and fluid piece, it truly brings out the Hines signature. How did you come to approach it this way and was it as enjoyable to record as it is to listen to.
Pamela Hines: I wanted to have a few true mainstream pieces on the CD. In addition to my enjoyment of playing mainstream, I know that these are accessible pieces for the listener. I was able to relax on this tune because the changes were pretty straight forward and I could let the creative urges flow. But, you know, I was thinking that after Oscar Peterson did it, why would anyone else? Still, it's about putting your own initials on it and feeling grateful for having the chance to do so.
JazzReview: When you completed the project Return was it what you envisioned it to be?
Pamela Hines: Yes, it's hard for me to listen to my own stuff without being highly critical, then miserable, right? But this project...I feel a little more settled about it, mostly because I feel like people are enjoying it and that makes me feel great. For me, it's not this big selfish thing where I just play and say @#$#@ to the audience. It's really important that I reach the listener and send them away with a bounce in their step or inspired heart. So, knowing that the CD is doing well means I am reaching people.
JazzReview: Looking back at it, any cuts you would have liked to add to its ensemble?
Pamela Hines: Yeah that "Very" cut with Bob and Jerry going at it.
JazzReview: The charts have been very complementary to its sound. It really does jump out and grasp the listener. It has that straight jazz appeal so often missed in the genre. How do you describe its sound in the words of Ms. Hines?
Pamela Hines: I am enjoying the balance right now, between edgy and mainstream. For me it has had to do with the journey of practice and exploration...relaxation and spiritual growth.
JazzReview: What can we expect next from you and in a whole what does 2008 hold in store for the Hines followers?
Pamela Hines: I would like to do another trio album and I am also churning around the idea of vocal originals, again.
JazzReview: Now, to get to know one, you need to have fun, so let’s do! Answer if you will these probing questions and be blatantly honest
1. What is your favorite comfort food?
Hey, I am a woman...chocolate of course!
2. What hobbies do you do to unwind?
I used to paint, but I devote all creative time to piano practice. I walk and work-out. They are like medicine to me.
3. Most embarrassing moment on stage?
Probably forgetting where I am or forgetting someone's name...dammit!!!
4. What makes you angry?
Arrogance, when I used to get nervous, abuse of any kind, rhetoric (especially political)
5. If you needed to get away where do you go?
Man, my girls and Dave went to Bonaire in 2006 and 2007. I don't think we'll get back there again, but I go there mentally and to the view of the underwater life we saw while snorkeling. So calming and I am able to put things in perspective. When I am home, I have to "get away" mentally, through prayer and meditation, spiritual work.
6. When not in the jazz mood what do you listen too?
Well, I like Mahler and the classical Masters. But really, I listen almost exclusively to jazz. When my daughter has possession of the car radio, though, I listen to the current top 40.