August 07, 2011

Saxationally Yours

As seen on the Jerry Lewis Telethon, Pamela Luss is a contemporary jazz vocalist blessed with a beautiful voice, remarkable timing, and sumptuous intonation. She sings classic standards, swinging jazz, and worthwhile tunes from some of the unexplored corners of the Great American Songbook in a fresh and original way. She covers a wide range of stylistic ground, from traditional ballads to pop hits to Latin songs and the blues, in interpretations that can be either catchy and finger snapping or slow and tender - and everything in between. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times described Pamela’s singing as having “a hint of huskiness, a variable cloudiness, a passing shadow that escalates her sound from merely pretty to intoxicating” and added that “Luss' aim is bulls-eye accurate.”

Since 2006, Pamela has released four albums on Savant/ High Note Records, the newest of which is "Sweet And Saxy," a collaboration with the legendary tenor saxophonist and producer Houston Person. Pamela and Houston have enjoyed a special musical relationship: he appeared as a guest soloist on her two previous CDs, Your Eyes and Magnet, and they've also worked together in concert. Sweet And Saxy is a glorious display of the dynamic synergy created by the emerging singer and the veteran horn man. Pamela, Houston, and pianist John di Martino created the arrangements together, and even the title Sweet And Saxy is a collaboration by Pamela and Houston.

Pamela and Houston celebrated the CD's release with a special performance at New York's Jazz Standard that resulted in two completely sold-out shows, as well as special appearances at J&R Music World (where the new album topped the store's sales charts) and Barnes and Noble. Further performances in support of the album are scheduled for the Metropolitan Room in Chelsea in Manhattan and Chris' Jazz Cafe in Philadelphia (both in January; see for details). Sweet And Saxy has been well received nationally and internationally, including Japan. “Everything about Pamela is first-rate, be it her solid chops, well-endowed voice, or skillful ballad delivery,” as the Japanese magazine Jazz Yell raves, “The magical interaction between the warm sound of Person's tenor sax and Luss's expressive singing suggests the birth of a new, splendid partnership.”

From a very early age, Pamela knew that she wanted to be a singer. “My mom tells me that when I was really young, I would imitate the sound of the hair blow dryer, and I could sing back the tones of a busy signal on the telephone.” Pamela's exceptional pitch was apparent early on and remains strong today as one of the identifying features of a uniquely smooth voice with unusual fullness and purity of tone.

Growing up in Connecticut, Chicago, & Manhattan, Pamela studied music and took voice lessons. She learned to love jazz and The Great American Songbook thanks to her father, a talented avocational pianist who spent hours illustrating to her what makes the great songs and the great singers great. She majored in music at New York University.
Pamela first emerged as a professional singer with long-running gigs at several prominent New York venues, including Mannahatta and the Bruno Jamais Restaurant Club. She also began performing at private functions, most notably at a film premiere party thrown by the actor and filmmaker Matthew Modine.

Early in her career, Pamela was asked to perform at several special annual events at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. It was there that she was heard by the well-known saxophonist and bandleader Vincent Herring. Herring offered to produce her first album, There's Something About You I Don't Know. With accompaniments that vary between a big band, a string orchestra, and a small group, Pamela sings with an all-star line-up, including Mulgrew Miller, Tom Harrell, Jeremy Pelt, Steve Turre, Russell Malone, Greg Hutchinson, and Richie Goods. There's Something About You I Don't Know was released by Savant/HighNote Records to enthusiastic reviews in February of 2006. As Stephen Latessa of All About Jazz opined, “There is a palpable richness and sense of luxury in Pamela Luss’s debut album.”

Pamela Luss has enjoyed successful engagements in nearly every major night club in New York, drawing capacity crowds to The Jazz Standard, Feinstein’s at The Regency, Birdland (in Times Square), Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola (at Jazz at Lincoln Center), The Iridium, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Enzo’s, and many other venues. Pamela is perhaps the only singer to have appeared at both the first annual Jazz Improv Convention and the long-running Mabel Mercer Foundation cabaret convention at Rose Hall, which illustrates her acceptance in the worlds of both jazz and cabaret.

In 2007, High Note Records released Your Eyes, Pamela’s second album, and her first collaboration with pianist and musical director John diMartino, special guest Houston Person, and producer Todd Barkan. Scott Yanow wrote in The All Music Guide, “…Ms. Luss shows that she is a superior jazz singer, whether being sensual on ‘Baby Don't You Quit Now,’ finding surprising life in a faster-than-usual ‘Over the Rainbow,’ or swinging on ‘Our Day Will Come.’”

Your Eyes immediately made it to number three out of one hundred on's vocal jazz Bestselling new & future releases, and shot to number eight on the iTunes jazz chart in France. Christopher Loudon of Jazz Times wrote that hers was “quite possibly the finest-to-date interpretation of Alan and Marilyn Bergman's 'How Do You Keep The Music Playing?' (on Your Eyes) and added “She knows how to break [your heart] with excruciating tenderness.”

On Labor Day, 2007, Pamela Luss was asked to perform as part of a true American Cultural Institution, the annual telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, hosted by the legendary Jerry Lewis. The video clip of this number, her exciting, high-speed re- imagining of the iconic standard “Over The Rainbow,” has since been viewed thousands of times on YouTube. Jerry Lewis himself, no minor judge of talent, has described Pamela as “a wonderful singer.”

Pamela made her third album, Magnet in 2008. Magnet reached #5 on Barnes and Noble Bestselling Standards Albums and #6 on their Bestselling Vocal Jazz Albums. It also received heavy airplay, reaching #39 on the JazzWeek Jazz Radio Chart and placed in the top Jazz 50 iTunes Store sales. Magnet was also given stellar reviews, such as that of syndicated columnist Ric Bang, who wrote (in The Davis Enterprise), “Her voice is mellow and excellent, her phrasing exquisite. She can rivet your attention with simple oldies like ‘Day by Day,’ ‘Moon River,’ or ‘Quiet Nights,’ and then grab you by the throat with ‘For All We Know’ and ‘Bewitched.’ You know she's singing them for your ears alone. Longtime music fans, who miss hearing those great vocalists of years past, need not despair; this lady more than fills the need for such music.”

“Ms. Luss shows that she is a superior jazz singer, whether being sensual on ‘Baby Don't You Quit Now,’ finding surprising life in a faster-than-usual ‘Over the Rainbow,’ or swinging on ‘Our Day Will Come’” writes Scott Yanow in The All Music Guide. Check out Pamela live and hear why Mr. Yanow declared that Pamela creates “An indescribable magic.”

To Visit Pamela Luss's website CLICK HERE

Listen to a wonderful conversation between myself, Pamela Luss and Houston Person. CLICK HERE

Dubbed “the natural heir to the Boss Tenor crown worn so long and so well by Gene Ammons” (Bob Porter), global performer Houston Person knows the music business inside out, from booking his own tours to producing his own albums. As eclectic as he is talented, Person has recorded everything from disco and gospel to pop and r&b, in addition to his trademark, soulful hard bop. After years as producer and house tenor for HighNote Records and touring with the late Etta Jones, Person is now known as a master of popular songs played in a relaxed, highly accessible style.

Person grew up in Florence, South Carolina, and remembers his parents listening to lots of music at home, including jazz. First playing piano before switching to the tenor sax at age 17, he went on to study music at South Carolina State College (where he is included in the school’s Hall of Fame), and later pursued advanced studies at Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut. As a member of the United States Air Force band stationed in Germany, he played with Eddie Harris, Cedar Walton, and Don Ellis, later working as a sideman for organist Johnny "Hammond" Smith in the mid 1960s.

Person built his reputation as a leader with a series of soulful recordings for Prestige in the 60s. However, for a large part of his career he was best-known for his legendary partnership with the great vocalist, Etta Jones, which lasted over 30 years until her death in 2001. Recently he has performed with vocalist Barbara Morrison, the great Ernie Andrews and in the past has worked with Ernestine Anderson, Della Griffin and Dakota Staton.

Houston’s appearances as sideman are legion, and include recordings with Etta Jones, Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Dakota Staton, Horace Silver, Charles Earland, Charles Brown, and many others. As a record producer, he has worked with many artists, including Etta Jones, Freddy Cole, Charles Brown, Buck Hill, Dakota Staton, and Ernie Andrews. In 1990, his recording with Ron Carter, “Something in Common” (Muse), won the Independent Jazz Record of the Year Award, and he received an Indie Award for his recording, “Why Not?” (Muse). Other awards have included the prestigious Eubie Blake Jazz Award (1982) and the Fred Hampton Scholarship Fund Image Award (1993), and he has been honored with a "Houston Person/Etta Jones Day" in Hartford County, MD (1982) and in Washington, DC (1983). Houston Person has recorded over 75 albums as a leader on Prestige, Westbound, Mercury, Savoy, and Muse, which became HighNote Records.

His HighNote recordings as both tenor artist and producer, “My Buddy: Etta Jones Sings the Songs of Buddy Johnson” and “Etta Jones Sings Lady Day,” were Grammy finalists in the Best Jazz Vocal category in 1999 and 2000, respectively. HighNote has issued a three-disc collection of some of his finest recordings along with four new tracks all recorded at the famed Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Entitled “The Art and Soul of Houston Person” (HCD 7200), this is the first multi-disc retrospective of an artist’s recorded work to be issued by the label.

Wrote Gary Giddens in the Village Voice, “I have always admired Houston Person for his huge tone, bluff humor, and pointed obbligato…Person lucidly rides the beat with figures you think you've heard but haven't. These are not recycled licks or clich├ęs; they simply seem familiar, like family… gray hair aside, Person is unchanged, an unmoved mover of certain jazz essentials.” Ask him what’s important in his music, and Houston Person notes that, “It's important that it's relaxing…Relaxes you and makes you feel good… I'm going to always play the things that I think contributes to good jazz, such as the blues and swinging.”

To Visit Houston Person's website CLICK HERE

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