Smitty: I’m so excited to welcome back to JazzMonthly.com an incredible musician. She has so much cool and her latest project is evident of that. It is a beautiful celebration of great music from some of the most fantastic entertainers that ever touched the stage, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, and Hal David. It is called The Look Of Love. Here to talk about this great record and her marvelous career, please welcome the incredible Shanachie recording artist, Ms. Pamela Williams. Pam, how ya doin’, my friend?
Pamela Williams (PW): I’m good, I’m good.
Smitty: Excellent. Well, I am totally digging this new record. It’s a great celebration of the music of Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach and Hal David. And when I first heard what the content was, I said “What a great idea, what great music,” because we don’t hear anyone covering this music, especially the way you have. Wow, this is incredible stuff.
PW: Thank you, Smitty.
Smitty: Talk to me about this whole evolution of doing these wonderful songs, and arranging them the way you did was just magnificent.
PW: Thank you. Well, I had wanted to do this Burt Bacharach project for about ten years now and I think that they’ve always been some of my favorite songs. Whenever I’m painting and doing artwork, I would always put on Dionne Warwick, and her collection is….I’m like “Oh my God, these songs, when I hear them, they make me feel so happy and so wonderful inside, the melodies are wonderful, just a group of really uplifting songs,” and I thought it would be really nice to just be able to do these songs over on saxophone and to do them in a jazz style, a contemporary jazz style, and do different arrangements. I didn’t know how I was gonna actually go about changing the arrangements because I’m like “wow, they’re so classic and timeless the way they already are. I mean, I’m gonna have to really dissect these to really do them over.”
Smitty: Did you grow up listening to these two great entertainers, their music?
PW: I guess when these songs were out I was a little girl because I think they came out in the sixties? I remember that my parents used to listen to these songs a lot and I really didn’t get back to really start listening to these songs again until back in the nineties. I went to the record store and I saw, oh, Dionne Warwick’s Greatest Hits, and I picked up the CD and I just fell in love with it, and I’m like “Oh my God, I remember these songs.” I hadn’t heard them a lot. I remember them from being really young, but maybe it’s the memories that they brought back because I remember my parents had a house in Philadelphia and they would always play those particular songs and I still remember those songs from when I was a little girl, and maybe it was a happy time of my life so that’s probably why I wanted to do these songs over.
Smitty: Nice. Well, what I really love about it is you didn’t lose that old school feel of the songs, but you put some great arrangements in there for the saxophone and they blend so well.
PW: Thank you. It was really challenging, because when I started working on the project, I knew it was gonna be a challenge to come up with different arrangements of stuff that’s just already great, and I thought, well, if I’m taking on the challenge in doing this, I’ve gotta make them different and interesting enough where people will still like them as much as they would like the original recordings, and I didn’t want to lose too much of the essence of the songs, so it was quite challenging.
Smitty: Yeah, they were doing some pretty incredible stuff back then, weren’t they?
PW: Yeah, yeah, and it’s karma because it’s like Burt Bacharach was able to take these free flowing sounds that makes you think that they would be easy to do, but these were complex arrangements where the song might be 4/4 for one part of the song and then the time will change right in the middle of the song to 2/4 and then it would go to 3/4 and then it would go back and forth, and I’m thinking, okay, I gotta rethink this whole thing. (Both laugh.) There are some different elements going on here that just listening to them casually I wasn’t picking up how things were changing so much in these songs.
Smitty: Yes, and it shows the talent of these two great artists, Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach, doesn’t it?
PW: Definitely. What a great musical marriage between the two of them.
Smitty: Yeah, just beautiful, and I think you captured that and I think it will remind the audience of that because you mentioned memories of growing up with these songs. I think it will evoke a lot of memories for the listener when they listen to these great songs and the beautiful arrangements that you’ve added to them. I mean, it takes us back and then it brings us forward at the same time.
PW: Oh, well, that’s what I wanted to do. I like the way you put that. (Both laugh.)
Smitty: And like you said, they’re classic songs. I mean, like “You’ll Never Get To Heaven If You Break My Heart,” “The Look of Love,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” and you know my favorite on this magnificent record is, Track 7, “Walk On By.”
PW: (Laughs.) Well, Precious [Iglesias] is gonna be happy to hear that.
Smitty: (Laughs.) And when I first heard this song and then I found out Precious was singing this song, it’s like “Oh, I can’t believe it, no, no, no.”
Smitty: But the interplay is what’s so remarkable. The interplay of your saxophone and her voice is just totally amazing, and the melody, I mean, it’s just one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard in a long time.
PW: Wow, thank you, thank you. I have to definitely convey that to her.
Smitty: Yes, and sometimes when you know a person or you’ve been around them and then you hear their talents, it just makes it even that much more remarkable, and I just can’t say enough about this great arrangement of this song because I’ve heard it before and I’ve heard renditions of it before, but I have to say—and I don’t do this often—but I have to say this is the best rendition of this song I have ever heard.
Smitty: I’m not kidding, and when I say that I really mean it because I’ve heard a lotta music. (Laughs.)
PW: Okay, okay. (Laughs.) You’re not just saying that because you’re one of my favorite people? (Laughs.)
Smitty: Exactly, exactly, yeah, and thank you for saying that but, yes, I love this song, and I wish I had a dime for each time I’ve hit repeat. (Laughs.)
PW: It’s so funny because I had wanted Precious to do—I wanted one of the songs to be a vocal and we wanted to show off, like okay, which one do we pick to be the vocal song? Because, I mean, there are so many great ones and all of them, any one that you would want to do.
Smitty: Of course.
PW: And one day I was in the studio working on “Walk On By” and Precious was like “Well, let me just go in the recording booth and let me just put down like a scratch vocal and let’s just see what it sounds like” and so she put down a scratch vocal and I was like “I like that.” I was like “I think this should be the one.”
Smitty: Yes, you nailed it! It’s breathtaking. When you really analyze what’s happening, it’s just that much more amazing because she shows such great range of voice that I didn’t realize she had, and I have listened to this song so many times but each time I sort of dissect the song to see where it goes and how far she reaches to capture this song and, I tell ya, it’s fantastic.
PW: Thank you.