Checking In: Come Sunday With Jazz Siren Pamela Hart
“My soundtracks are What’s Going On and Imagine”
By Raoul Hernandez,
10:10AM, Tue. Apr. 28, 2020
If musicians never get a second chance to make a first impression, then some of us haven’t forgotten one particular local jazz singer channeling Lady Day. “Pamela Hart evok[es] Billie Holiday with her pure, sweet vulnerability,” wrote a Chronicle reviewer in 1996, and indeed, she became a first-call Austinite for shows by Nancy Wilson and Dianne Reeves.
Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?
Pamela Hart: Kevin and I are empty nesters, so we’re sheltering at home. We both have full-time jobs in addition to the music business, so we are working during the day and working on Women in Jazz and HartBeat Productions evenings. We are getting along fine: walking in the mornings; having our own personal space in the house; and doing Sunday evening house concerts on Facebook Live.
I’m singing to music tracks (some good, some so-so) and Kevin is doing sound and lighting. It keeps my chops up and gives us purpose. We are providing a soothing, Sunday evening experience.
AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?
PH: I had gigs cancel right away in March, of course, and we have been busy trying to reschedule our Women in Jazz events. We have moved our concert schedules out from April to September and hope to schedule the remaining between September and December. We are rescheduling these activities:
1) Keepin’ It Real Jazz Youth Concert, April 19 at Chez Zee – TBD
2) Jazz Divas Concert, with Gail Jhonson, Althea Rene, and Jazmine Ghent, June 14 at One World Theatre – Oct. 11
3) Spotlight on Vocal Jazz (youth), August 9 at Chez Zee Gallery – TBD
4) Kyle Turner & Friends, with Michael Ward, Pamela Hart, and Eric Essex, Sept. 6 at One World Theatre – same
I've missed playing live with musicians.
AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person – at a show, at Central Market, at SXSW?
PH: Music is so important for the soul. People are going numb without it. They seem to be very hungry for my little 30-minute concerts on Sundays and are very grateful. Even my musician friends seem lost and paralyzed. They’re trying to figure out the next move … but can’t move.
AC: Everyone is having to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?
PH: I work for IBM, so we have been equipped to work at home and have used WebEx and Zoom for years. At home, I am digital enough to use my sound system, wi-fi, and iPhone to be able to perform on Facebook Live. I also post on YouTube.
I’m learning so much about live streaming and working virtually with musicians, but I’m finding that most are not tech savvy or don’t have the basic equipment to do virtual playing together.
AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?
PH: I do the Sunday 5pm concerts for myself as well as for the people. It helps me stay positive and focused on a growth area rather than being stifled by the madness. My soundtracks are Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On, and Imagine.