Austin's 'First Lady of Jazz' to perform in person at Bayou Theater
Austin's noted "First Lady of Jazz" Pamela Hart will begin her Feb. 4 performance at University of Houston-Clear Lake's Bayou Theater at 6:30 p.m. by sharing insights and taking questions about performing jazz, then beginning her concert at 7:30 p.m.
"I'm also a vocal teacher, so I'm going to start off talking about how to structure a jazz song, how to give a solo, and how the musicians in the group agree on ending a song through eye contact, chemistry, and nonverbal communication," Hart said. "And I will talk about voicing. That's what makes one singer different from another. When people hear something, they'll say, 'That's how Pam would sing that!'"
She said she looks forward to taking requests from the audience during the performance, and making it their show as well. "I always start out with a plan and then make it situational, based on the audience's feedback," she said. "I could change my mind that morning. I have a structure in place but I could change it even while I'm singing."
Hart said she found jazz as a child, when her mother played jazz records all the time and sang while she worked. "I listened to Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, John Coltrane and Johnny Mathis. Those were her people," she remembered. "I became interested in singing live music and solo performance when I got in college and started getting club dates in 1982 when I moved to Austin."
After checking jazz records out of the local library, Hart said she began building a repertoire. "I was curious about Billie Holiday," she said. "The only one I knew about was Diana Ross in 'Lady Sings the Blues,' but I discovered the real Billie Holiday and learned her repertoire."
She learned from other musicians what it is to be a jazz singer. "I took some music classes in college, but I learned most of what I know working with musicians in live performance," she said. "I learned the importance of communicating without talking, and that jazz is very improvisational. I can get with a musician I have never met, and it's all hand signals and eye contact."
But the most important thing she learned, she said, was that performance and jazz is about using your whole being. "It's not just your voice, it's your movements, your expressions or your mood, your mindset at the time of the song," she said. "Once you perform a song one way, and then another time, it's totally different. These are things you don't learn in books."
Right now, she said, her favorite is a song by Ella Fitzgerald called, "Happy Talk." And, "Sergio Mendes' 'So Many Stars' is another favorite," she said. "Carmen McRae's 'Wonder Why' is swinging! But Nancy Wilson is the singer I admire most."
"Jazz legend Mary Lou Williams said, 'Jazz, no matter what form it takes, must come from the heart and the mind.' Pamela Hart truly understands the profundity of this statement and will not only share her depth of jazz knowledge in her pre-concert talk, but, will move you with her extraordinary artistry," said UHCL's Cultural Arts Director Eric Despard. "I am thrilled that she will be the first presented artist in the Bayou Theater of 2021."
To purchase tickets to Pamela Hart's performance, go online. Tickets are $25 with exclusive limited seating. All CDC, State and local COVID recommendations will be followed including temperature checks and social distancing. Masks are required.