Updated: Jul 2, 2020
by David Basse
To say that Pamela Baskin-Watson is accomplished in the world of music would be an understatement. With a life-long dedication to music from a variety of perspectives, Pamela has achieved a high degree of success in many categories of the music business.
Pamela Baskin developed her love of music through her mom, Mable Baskin.
“She informed my creative direction,” said Pamela, “and instilled in me my love of the voice, writing for voices.”
Mable Baskin was the Founder and Director of the Kansas City Meistersingers. The first Black vocal ensemble to perform at Kansas City’s Starlight Theater.
“That group held rehearsals in our house once a week for years,” said Pamela, “we had to go to bed at 8, and I was transported with the glorious sound of rich voices singing.”
Pamela Baskin-Watson a gifted pianist, singer-songwriter and arranger. While still in High School, she was a student of acclaimed jazz pianist George Salisbury at UMKC. She later attended KCKCC and the University of Miami.
“However, as do many artists that pursued art before getting the ‘paper’, said Pamela, I did not get my degree until 2010 from William Jewell College.”
Along with her mom, Pamela considers Wilhemina Freeman, Gladys Cushon, Reginal Buchner, and Mr. Salisbury to be among her mentors.
During her many years of living in New York City, Pamela taught at the prestigious Harlem School of the Arts, where she served as the accompanist for the vocal college prep program and taught vocal musicianship skills. She is the founder and was the pianist-director of the Harlem School of the Arts Vocal Jazz Ensemble and she has been conducting and accompanying for both secular and religious music groups, most of her adult life.
Pamela continues to perform with, and write music for, many of the biggest names in jazz. She has recorded and released the music of Charles Mingus, John Coltrane, Bobby Watson and the beloved pianist, and the Watson’s close friend James Williams.
As a composer and lyricist, many of Pamela’s offerings have been recorded by musicians of great merit; Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Bobby Watson’s Horizon, the 29th St. Saxophone Quartet, the Blue Note Super Blue Big Band and the Tailor-Made Big Band.
Many renowned vocalists, including Betty Carter, who was one of Pamela’s personal favorites, have recorded her tunes. Two of jazz’s most popular male vocalists, Mark Murphy and Kevin Mahogany both recorded her works, and vocalist Deborah Brown continues to feature the songs of this exceptional musician, at her concerts around the globe. Even young trumpet ballad master Roy Hargrove played, and recorded the music of Pamela Baskin-Watson.
In February of 1999, Pamela had the grand honor of being choral conductor for the John Coltrane Africa Brass Project, performed at the University of Massachusetts, in Amherst. The tribute was co-led by bassist Reggie Workman and trumpeter Charles Tolliver.
Last November, Pamela’s musical theater production, A Mighty Funny Kind of Love, was presented at New York’s AMAS Theater, during the New York Fall Festival of New Works. She wrote the book of the production with Book of Gaia bandmate, Nedra Goodson Dixon, although the music and lyrics are solely her own. The musical was produced by Into the Deep Productions and directed by Elmore James.
Pamela Baskin-Watson’s large body of work remains as a legacy that will inspire musicians of today and live on into the future. Her projects over the past two decades, produced here in Kansas City, will have a lasting effect on the quality of jazz and musical theater presented here. She is a play-write and works as a Musical Director. She writes, conducts and performs her own music. The 2019 New York premiere of her play, A Mighty Funny Kind of Love, presented last fall with well-known world-class actors, may well be her ticket to Broadway, once they turn the lights back on.
In March 2020, Pamela spoke at the Schomberg Center for Black Research as part of the institution’s Women’s Jazz Festival. She spoke on the life of acclaimed pianist, vocalist, actress and television personality Hazel Scott. Scott was the first Black person in America to have her own television program, The Hazel Scott Show premiered July 3rd. 1950.
An outstanding artist, Pamela Baskin-Watson has found success in many areas of musical production, writing and performance. While success in any one of these categories would constitute an outstanding achievement, Pamela’s wide-ranging success and unending support of young talented musicians has made her a highly sought-after force in the worlds of jazz and musical theater.