Saturday, March 05, 2005

ECLECTICOBIT: The death has been announced of Pam Bricker, jazz-to-electronica vocalist. Probably best known at our end of the garden for the work she did with Thievery Corporation, Pam had been a familiar face on the Washington music scene for nearly thirty years.

Born in Richmond, Va, she had a musical upbringing - her father, although a scientist by calling was a part-time trombonist; her mother was to remarry, this time to a full-time trombone player. In a childhood scarred by her mother's manic depression, and as a self-described loner, music was a comfort and a solace - and later an inspiration: "The sort of perverse sexuality of that tune [Randy Newman's You Can leave Your hat On], for me as an 18-year-old, that was the cat's meow," she would say later. Overwhelmed wityh a desire to make music for herself, she attended singing classes and played a circuit of coffee houses and hotel lounges across the East Coast, before settling in Washington in 1981 with Gareth Branwyn, who would become her husband. A chance meeting in an oats and roast cafe lead to collaborations with Mary Chapin Carpenter: "We got together a few times to sort of jam and pick and grin, and then she became the world's most famous folk and country crossover artist," said Pam.

Her big break came when she hooked up with swing vocalists Mad Romance. There, she formed a partnership with Rick Harris, producing a number of albums together after the group splintered in 1987.

She also found time to teach jazz at George Washington University (yes, they apparently have a jazz department); her work with Thievery Corporation included a track on this year's Grammy Award winning Garden State soundtrack, Lebanese Blonde.

She was often at odds with the moronic nature of the music industry - at 25, she was told by an executive she was "a little bit too old" to start a recording career; the result was a nervous breakdown and a withdrawal. Happily, she fought her way back and proved him wrong.

During the 90s, she started to move beyond jazz: "I felt an urge to break out of such a straight-laced jazz frame of mind and repertoire. I said: 'Jazz, like crime, doesn't pay. You have to mix it up and modernize it.' "

In the end, though, depression caught up with her again and reports suggest she committed suicide on February 22nd. She is survived by her estranged husband; her father Peter; and her son Blake Maloof.

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