Pamela Wise began composing music and playing the piano by ear at the age of 5. Her father Robert C. Wise who was a bassist decided to start her on piano lessons when she was nine. After studying the piano basics, Pamela began playing for her church choir which was directed by her father. While in high school, Pamela formed her own R&B group called the Ohio Movement which performed throughout the Midwest and East Coast. After 8 years with the Ohio Movement, Pamela decided to leave the band. "I always wanted to be a jazz composer and pianist, it was definitely in my blood after growing up listening to it." When her brother Craig finished college and moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1978 he encouraged Pamela to move with him and she did. While in Cleveland, Pamela attended Cuyahoga Community College and further studied music. "Shortly after Craig received an employment opportunity from a prominent bank in Detroit, MI and we moved to Detroit in December 1979. I worked with several R&B groups in the Detroit area, but I still wanted to play jazz."
Pamela bumped into Wendell Harrison in a recording studio while taping some of her compositions. Wendell (who later became her husband) became interested in her music and started featuring her compositions on his recordings as well as featuring her in his ensembles. Pamela was blessed with the opportunity to be performing and composing for legendary artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Leon Thomas and Eddie Harris (to name a few).
In 1989, Pamela started forming her own ensemble with saxophonist James Carter, trumpeter Dwight Adams, bassist Jaribu Shahid, drummer Ali Muhammad and percussionist Andrew Daniels. Then Pamela received two Creative Artist Grant awards from the Arts Foundation of Michigan to write compositions demonstrating the link between Afro Cuban and jazz music. In addition, she was still performing with her ensemble and freelancing with other groups. One of her most favorite freelance project in 1994 was co-writing the title track on violinist Regina Carter’s CD I WANNA TALK TO YOU. Regina, Regina, Pamela and cellist Akua Dixon Turre took some of the finest live music to airwaves at WDET FM public radio on Kim Heron’s show, Destination Out.
In 1994, Wendell Harrison introduced Pamela to world renowned percussionist Jerry Gonzalez and produced her first compact disc SONGO FESTIVIDAD. You can also find her most recent works; A NEW MESSAGE FROM THE TRIBE, KINDRED SPIRITS, NEGRE CON LECHE, and PAMELA’S CLUB are available at several digital download sites including CDbaby.com, iTunes, Amazon, CDbaby and many others.
In addition to the performances and recorded releases, Pamela also serves as Music Minister at her church, the historical Shrine of the Black Madonna Pan African Orthodox Christian Church.
In 2016 Pamela was awarded the prestigious Kresge Creative Artist Fellowship Award that came with a $25,000 prize for her work as a pianist, teacher, composer and cultural warrior.
"Wise, an assured bop pianist with a Tyneresque (as in McCoy Tyner) touch, composes strong melodies and braces them with the simmering rhythms of the Afro-Cuban tradition."
Dan Ouellette-Downbeat Magazine
"Far from Havana, the Latin jazz movement has taken root in such unlikely places as Detroit, where pianist/composer Pamela Wise displays a thorough understanding of the idiom on SONGO FESTIVIDAD. With special guest Jerry Gonzalez on congas and Wendell Harrison, Detroit’s resident jazz guru on clarinet, Wise has fashioned a hybrid that capitalizes on authentically performed Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms while allowing Harrison and other soloists to flex their avant-garde oriented improvisational style. The inclusion of Gonzalez was a good choice: his trumpet work on the Wise composition HASTA MANANA is one of the albums’ high points, and makes the album worth seeking out."
Mark Holston - JAZZIZ Magazine
"Pamela Wise’s SONGO FESTIVIDAD is a perfect example of the current trends in Latin jazz. She has written some innovative songs that draw from the influence of Tito Rodriguez and Machito, while the playing of all concerned has the energy of the Fania All Stars."
Leonard J. Bukowski-Cadance Magazine
photo by Cybelle Codish