Pamela Wise – A New Message From The Tribe – Pure Pleasure Records

by | Apr 1, 2022 | Jazz CD Reviews, SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Composer/pianist Pamela Wise hits all the right notes on this Pure Pleasure Records release.

Pamela Wise – A New Message From The Tribe – Wenha-Tribe Records/Pure Pleasure Records 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 71:47 ****1/2:

(Pamela Wise – piano, keyboards; Wendell Harrison – tenor saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; Dwight Adams – trumpet; Terry Kimura – trombone; Mahindi Masai – percussion; Akunda Hollis – percussion; Gregory Freeman – percussion; Louis M. Jones – drums; Je Pedraz – bass violin; Damon Warmack – electric bass; Ping Spells – vocals; Carla Cook – vocals; Omolara Ogbanna Rene Caesar – vocals; Madness Naima Shambourger – vocals; Terry Herald – guitar; Djallo Djakate – drums)

Growing up in a musical family, it seemed  that Pamela Wise was destined to be a musician and composer. She became part of the vibrant Detroit jazz scene as a pianist. Her compositional work was featured by Freddie Hubbard, Leon Thomas, Woody Shaw, Regina Carter and future husband, Wendell Harrison. At the core of Wise’s music is the connection between Afro-Cuban and jazz idioms, including bop. Pure Pleasure Records has released a 180-gram double vinyl from Wise, A New Message From The Tribe. Wise embarks on her own musical journey with original songs and songs from Phil Ranelin, Wendell Harrison and Herbie Hancock. She acknowledges the legacy of female jazz trailblazers that preceded her. With a top notch large ensemble, she breezes through an exciting array of jazz. Side A opens up with “Ode To Dorothy”. With a percolating arrangement featuring horns and percussion, a bop-infused Afro-Cuban translation is compelling. Her extended piano solo is nimble and sprightly and a subsequent trumpet run (Dwight Adams) is equally forceful. Wendell Harrison contributes a solo on tenor. “Plena Plenty” is like a Cuban dance party with  textured horns, reeds, percussion and dazzling syncopation. Terry Kimura adds a sinewy trombone to distill the exuberance and sensuality of the music. Another up tempo piano run is fierce.

A complex, long percussion intro kicks off “Blues For Mary Lou” (as In Mary Lou Williams). There is a polyrhythmic resonance to all of the music. This extended jam has Wise in counterpoint to the horns and reeds with dramatic flourishes. Her meticulous articulation is soulful with muscular grace, Trumpet and bass are featured. In a change of pace, a dedicated number to honor Sarah Vaughan (“The Divine One”) is more relaxed with jazzy vocals (Carla Cook) and fluent with a wistful bass clarinet by Harrison. But at the 3:46 mark, an explosive Latin jam concludes the track. Picking up the pace significantly, “Beneficent” has some jazz funk elements with Wise on electric piano. Harrison’s solo on tenor is excellent and there are some engaging chord modulations. “Vein Melter” is more atmospheric, with ethereal piano and an underlying deliberate pulse. Wise’s versatility is impressive. “How Do We End All This Madness” (vocals by Omolara Ogbanna Rene Caesar) approximates free-form socio-political motifs with a final imploring chant.

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Wendell Harrison offers a percussion-centric African-themed composition, “Wendell’s Abakua”. After a “field music” intro, a tender melodic flow is captured on bass clarinet. It is elegant and glows with a swaying resonance. Reverting to the cohesive structured aesthetics, “Gibraltar” reasserts bop eminence. There are swing elements and swelling accents. Wise’s piano solo is brilliant, with precise timing, prominent chords and right-hand notation. Tenor saxophone and trumpet amplify the straight-ahead, traditional jazz resonance. There are subtle tempo shifts, and a cool fade to ending. The finale (“The Only Blessing I Have Is You”) is a ballad acknowledgement to Billie Holiday, with references to song titles and perfumed gardenia. Madness Naima Shambourger is showcased on vocals.  A muted trumpet and vibrato tenor sax are  nice touches. 

Kudos to Pure Pleasure Records for sining a light on a lesser-known, but exciting jazz talent. 

TrackList:
Side A: Ode To Dorothy; Plena Plenty; Love Dream
Side B: Blues For Mary Lou; The Divine One; Beneficent
Side C: Vein Melter; How Do We End All This Madness; Wendell’s Abakua
Side D: Gibraltar; The Only Blessing I Have Is You. 

—Robbie Gerson

Album Cover for Pamela Wise - A New Message From The Tribe


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