Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pamela Rose: Jazz Artist Celebrates Women Songwriters

Pamela Rose: Jazz Artist Celebrates Women Songwriters
By Shelah Moody
Photo: Courtesy of Pamela Rose
            Pamela Rose is one of the Bay Area’s most prolific jazz and blues artists.  Along with being a vocalist, Rose is also an accomplished arranger, songwriter and organist who has toured with the late Merl Saunders and the Zasu Pitts Memorial Orchestra to name a few.
“I love San Francisco and the Bay Area, said Rose, who is married to Steven Dinkelspiel, publisher of “San Francisco” magazine. “I didn’t grow up here, but I feel like it’s the only place I’d want to live.”
            This week, Rose will bring her multi-media show, “Wild Women of Song,” which celebrates some of America’s finest female songwriters, including Peggy Lee, to Yoshi’s, Oakland (Nov. 9) and the Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz (Nov. 11).
Rose will be backed by a predominantly female band which includes Tammy Hall (piano), Kristen Strom (saxophone), Ruth Davies (bass), Kent Bryson (drums) and Jeff Massanari (guitar).
Q: Tell us about your show, “Wild Women of Song…”
A: It’s not just the music; it’s a whole research project and a very different kind of jazz show.  About a year ago, I recorded an album called “Wild Women of Song: Gal Composers of the Jazz Era,” which was focused on the jazz standards and the American songbooks that were written by women. Songwriters are very important to me. I realized that I knew almost nothing about these women, unless they were famous singers. As an   old literature major, I started digging around, and I was totally fascinated about the research that popped up. What I’ll be doing at (my shows) is a multi-media show.  I project these photo archives of these women and tell their stories and then we perform the music. It’s a jazz and blues show for sure with some great local men and women performers. It’s also a larger educational project that tells compelling stories. We did the show in London and at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. We’ll be performing at the Sonoma Valley Jazz Society and at Feinstein’s in New York in January. There are a lot of exciting things happening for this show. We love these gals. These are some pretty feisty, prolific, hard working women and it’s kind of wonderful to get in their heads.                    
Q: Tell us about some of these women songwriters that you will be celebrating.
A: For instance, there’s Doris Fisher, who wrote a lot of great songs like “You Always Hurt the One You Love,” “Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall” and “Put the Blame on Mame.” She was actually called the Queen of the Juke Box, because she wrote so many hit songs. In terms of songwriting royalties, she completely trumped her father and brothers by being gold. Then, she had this fascinating after music life where she became interested in antiques had a little antique store in L.A.  Jackie Kennedy actually had her flown out to help consult about decorating the White House; she was so impressed with her.
Another would be Kay Swift. She was not as prolific as some as these women, but she wrote “Fine and Dandy” and “Can We Be Friends.” The interesting thing about her is that she had a very public and interesting relationship with George Gershwin, her romantic and musical soul mate. Her handwriting and suggestions appeared on Gershwin’s manuscripts from the day they met. Gershwin’s family acknowledges that a lot of his productivity was amazing probably because of her helping him. All the stories are on wildwomenofsong.com.  
Q: Out of all the songs written by women composers, which are your favorites?
A: Oh, it changes every time. Right now, I’m really loving “Just for a Thrill,” which was written by Lil Hardin Armstrong; it’s a ballad that she wrote as a torch song for her husband, Louis Armstrong. Lil was one of the first jazz pianists. She was playing with King Oliver’s Creole Jazz band in Chicago in the 1920s, before (Louis) joined the band.
Q: What was it like working with Merl Sanders?
A: Merl got me my start, really. I was so young when he took me on the road with him. He was so patient with me, because I was so green. I’m kind of crazy about the Hammond B3 organ and I still play with a couple of local organist. Merl really got me hooked on that particular instrument.
Pamela Rose performs:
Tonight, 8:00 p.m, Yoshi’s 's Jazz Club,  510 Embarcadero West, Jack London Square, Oakland.  www.yoshis.com/oakland.
Thursday, Nov 11, 7:00 p.m, Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320 Cedar Street, Santa Cruz, www. www.kuumbwajazz.org.
For more information, go to http://www.pamelarose.com.
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