Jazz in Pink: Ready for their Playboy Jazz Festival debut

The annual Playboy Jazz Festival, happening this year on June 8 and June 9 at the Hollywood Bowl, will once again feature a plethora of bands and performers for music lovers to enjoy. One of the bands to watch out for is the all-female band called Jazz in Pink.

“The Hollywood Bowl is in Hollywood and Hollywood is home of the stars,” says Jazz in Pink keyboardist and pianist Gail Jhonson. “We are going to be seen by so many different people. It means so much. It’s like the highest venue. It’s just the biggest venue in the country. On the East Coast, you have the Lincoln Center and all of that, but the Hollywood Bowl it just means so much all the people who have shared that stage…The Beatles…Oh, my God! It’s very enriching that we can add our name to the live performers there. It’s just amazing that we’re going to be there. Michael Jackson….it’s really a big deal.”

Performing on the opening afternoon with Kool & The Gang, who will be closing the show that evening, Jazz in Pink has a budding following locally and abroad.

The group has not recorded too much music for fans to get a real feel of what their music sounds like, but they’ve developed a growing fan base that is enthusiastic about embracing their sound. Those in charge of putting on the talent for one of the more prestigious music festivals in the world, must have been pretty excited themselves to be impressed enough by the six-member band (Gail Jhonson, Karen Briggs, Althea Rene, Robin Bramlett, Danielle Thompson, and Tomoka Nomura-Jarvis) to its 2019 lineup.

Because the group has played with a deal of musicians domestically as well as globally, the official number of names list as being part of the band is more than two dozen. Jhonson said the unique quality about the band outside of it being an all-female ensemble is that there is representation everywhere.

“We’ve had women from all different cultures,” Jhonson said. “I think the instrumentation, too. I think that people find that unique about us…our instrumentation. It’s one thing to see a girl play a piano, another girl play the guitar and they do a song together. But with our instrumentation, like our sax player, she plays all of our saxes and flutes, I think people see that yearning, people do see the edge.”

Operating in a new world order of  technology, Jazz in Pink has  mushroomed into a global sensation thanks to social media platforms. Using Facebook, Instagram and YouTube generating buzz about the group, Jazz in Pink has been able to be linked on stage with heralded musicians such as Norman Brown, Eric Benet, Sheila E. Jonathan Butler, and Stanley Clarke, to name a few.

“Everyone brings their experiences with them, all the way from Yanni to Norman Brown to Patti Austin, we’ve played with so many different groups and that stuff,” said Jhonson. “So all those experiences come along it carries with us even though we don’t consciously carry them. We’ve played with so many groups over the years…”

Formed in 2008, Jazz in Pink has been around going on its 11th year or working and collaborating music, which is  pretty good stretch for a band these days.

“The key to our sustainability would be I think people believe in the concept, they believe in empowering women,” Jhonson said. “The theme is Women Making Music a Choice. When you make it a choice then you know that you have to make sacrifices. It’s a responsibility with that. You’re committed to music. A lot of us believe that we’re called to do it, but we just can’t just say, ‘Oh, I want to do music.’ You really have to be in it all the way.”

Being fully vested into the business also means tackling issues and navigating the waters of parenthood and other outside distractions outside of working on their craftmanship. That’s been pretty tough since much of their tenure together as group has been without having the finite structure of a management group behind them.

Thanks to the success of their music, they’re now able to finally have that support.

“I think the commitment from different women have allowed us to sustain ourselves out here without a record deal,” Jhonson said. “Without a really a strong, powerhouse team we’ve just really been doing it on our own between myself my manager, Michael Smith, and then we’ve had family and friends helping us along the way, and now we have an agent, Barbara Collins, she’s been fantastic. Now we have two agents and a manager and a host of women that support us and help us with the babies and the kids, getting hair and makeup, and all this other stuff besides the music and the instruments.”

That would be the fluff side of the business. On the other hand, members of Jazz in Pink, like women in other industry, have fight the same fight of pay equality, treated equally and sharing stage billing, Jhonson said.

“We’ve been talking about pay inequality and all this kinds of stuff, but when I was really getting started in the business part of the music, I discovered that women were underpaid in music as well, ” said Jhonson. “So, for us, it’s important us to be part of all these jazz festivals and these events that’s going on because people, primarily men, they don’t know but a handful of women that play instruments, but there are a lot of women that play instruments. It’s important that we align ourselves with other women and their causes because it don’t just stop at the music. We still have some of those same political issues of sharing that stage and getting equal pay and being taken seriously.”

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