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Pamela Williams
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Grover Washington Jr. was one of Pamela Williams' earliest influences. Williams had been listening to soul and R&B religiously since childhood when Mr. Magic's cutting-edge blend of jazz and R&B ignited a teenage Williams' interest in jazz. "Grover's my idol," says Williams. "He laughs when I tell him that I learned to play the saxophone listening to his records, but it's true. I'd listen to Mr. Magic or Live at the Bijou and copy his solos. I think that when an artist finds his or her own style, it comes from having so many different influences. I loved everyone from The Crusaders to The Ohio Players."

By the time Williams left Philly's rowhouses and cheesesteaks for L.A.'s sun, surf and smog, she had toured extensively and internationally backing fellow Philadelphian Patti LaBelle. "My success truly stems from Patti's graciousness," says Williams. "She has wholeheartedly supported me and built me up as an artist. I have learned so much from Patti. She is an amazing woman."

While many Philly musicians have made New York their home, Williams chose L.A. primarily because of the opportunities it offers in television and film. Since moving west, Williams has been employed by Arsenio Hall on Arsenio, Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and Rick Dees on Into the Night. In addition to touring with Teena Marie and performing with Prince, Babyface and Chante Moore, the saxtress has appeared in a wide variety of videos by artists ranging from soul veteran Barry White ("Come On") to rapper/actress Queen Latifah ("Hard Times").

But whatever style of music she embraces, Williams is unlikely to be confined to any one genre. "Some people feel like if you aren't playing straight-ahead jazz or classical music, you aren't a serious musician," she explains. "I don't agree with that statement in its entirety. I enjoy performing in a multitude of musical styles from Latin music, jazz, R&B, hip-hop and house. Variety keeps me fresh."