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July/August 2006

Pamela Williams
Elixir
Shanachie

Pamela Williams has now cranked out four CDs in four years, so even fans may be reluctant to hear yet another project by the saxophonist, who plays a warm alto and tenor for the most part. But taking Williams’ new work for granted would be a shame, since Elixir is by far her best. It wouldn’t be too much of a boast to claim that Williams’ urban-based instrumentals carry on the tradition of the late, great saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. while also competing on many levels with the most popular smooth-sax guy on the planet, Dave Koz.

As she’s matured as an artist, Williams’ playing has improved immensely. While the knock on Williams and others in the genre such as fellow saxophonist and labelmate Kim Waters is that they don’t offer as much as they could, Williams disproves this continually throughout the project, especially on the tunes “A Jam for Pam” and “Rise.” What makes Elixir so impressive is that Williams has combined melodically impressive and catchy pop-soul tunes with her equally impressive playing.

While it may be unfair to compare Williams to other female saxophones in the genre, notably Candy Dulfer and Mindi Abair, I’ll do it anyway. While both Dulfer and Abair have experimented with their sound of late, Williams maintains consistency on Elixir with a warm and inviting collection of mid-tempo songs that help define urban cool-sax sounds for today’s smooth jazz scene.

Originally published in July/August 2006
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