First Lady of Smooth Jazz Gail Jhonson
Presents Jazz In Pink’s Anticipated Shanachie Entertainment Debut Joy! Out October 30, 2020
Long-time Musical Director For Norman Brown Is Joined On New CD By
Labelmates & Special Guests Kim Waters, Marion Meadows & Paul Jackson Jr.
“Music has healing power, it can change your mood, put a smile on your face, or render up a dance move,” exclaims keyboardist and Jazz In Pink founder, Gail Jhonson. Hailing from the City Of Brotherly Love, Jhonson adds to Philadelphia’s legacy of pioneering music luminaries. “I am proud to be a part of the Philly sound. When I was growing up, you couldn’t walk too far before you heard a band or some instruments practicing,” recalls Gail, affectionately dubbed the First Lady Of Smooth Jazz. “I share the same love of orchestral instruments, horn sections, vocal groups and rhythm sections, that was made famous by TSOP, Bell, Huff, Harris, Creed, Wanzel and The Uptown Theatre Orchestra….oh such a long list of my composition heroes!”
With this rich tradition being a part of Gail Jhonson’s undeniable musical DNA, it is no surprise that she was driven to perform professionally by the young age of 14. Jhonson has been the Music Director for Grammy winning guitarist Norman Brown for over two decades. “I resonate with Norman’s music and his full expression on stage is stellar…He trusts me with the flow of his show, and knows that the best I have to offer is always there,” shares the now Los Angeles based pianist. A musician’s musician, whose musical arsenal draws from the worlds of straight-ahead Jazz, R&B, Funk and Gospel, Jhonson has held down the piano chair for a wide cross-section of artists from Bobby Womack, Janet Jackson, Pink and Morris Day to Sheila E., Ray Parker Jr., Peabo Bryron and Patti Austin, among others.
Danny Weiss, VP of Jazz and A&R for Shanachie Entertainment states, “As Norman Brown’s long time music director, it’s obvious that Gail Jhonson is a superb musician. But it’s the warmth and inner spirit that infuses her music that make her truly special. It’s a joy to be associated with her.” Jhonson’s label debut Joy! beautifully illustrates her compositional prowess as she offers ten tracks of originals. “I think I shine best as a composer,” confides the pianist. “I love works from composers as diverse as Duke Ellington, Igor Stravinsky, Carole King and Jimi Hendrix. When I am working, all of these musical ideas float around in the ether, and at any given moment, one might come and sit with me at my piano.”Joy!’s first single was “Joy Joy!” featuring label mates; saxophonist Kim Waters and guitarist Paul Jackson, Jr. The satisfying affair contains the right combination of laid-back soul with a gritty groove and offers an inviting mix that fittingly opens the album. The album’s second and current single, the head-nodding “Keystroke,” shows off Jhonson’s flare for concocting high-spirited bluesy numbers that infiltrate your body, daring you to sit still. Gail shares, “I wrote this song some years ago as a dedication to two of my keyboard heroes Ramsey Lewis and Billy Preston.”
They say that many are called but few are chosen. Music chose Gail. “My Mom bought me a toddler toy piano when I was about three years old. I didn’t remember until my sister reminded me. We later talked about, how amazing it was that she introduced me to the piano. She didn’t know particularly why, but glad she did,” reminisces the Berklee College of Music alum. Gail, is the mother of two musicians herself; a daughter, pianist/vocalist Tamina Khyrah-Joi (also a Berklee alum) and a dearly departed son Aaron “Vein” Jones. “Not a day goes by without thoughts of his humor, his studies and his music,” shares Gail. “He was an excellent producer, rapper and songwriter who had the gift of bringing people together and placing them where they could be beneficial to the projects he was working on. He has a legacy of about 5 CDs and played the keys and the drums.” Somewhat of a Renaissance woman, Jhonson loves to create. On her spare time when she is not creating music she enjoys, poetry, cooking, painting, drawing and writing. A woman on a mission, Gail created the ensemble Jazz In Pink as a way to address her concern that women are under represented on the jazz scene; particularly as instrumentalists. “Traditionally, most vocalists played piano, but were encouraged to only present their vocal skills on stage, while their instrumental expression was suppressed,” explains Jhonson. October 2020 marks the 12th anniversary of Jazz In Pink which Gail founded along with flautist Althea Rene and promoter Kyna Hubbard. We’ve had well over 50 women grace the stage with us, as artists and side musicians.” Jazz in Pink is all about family and has even showcased Gail’s daughter Tamina and goddaughter Aanhka, who have guested as vocalists. Gail describes Jazz In Pink’s music as “female energy of passion, beauty and fire; sheer Sisterness of rhythm, composition, performance and the pink principal-all expressed on stages that inspires.” She adds, “We wear pink, our fans wear pink, which shows that we are all in solidarity and resonate together in our brand of musical expression.”
Like everyone in all industries, the way that Gail Jhonson conducts her business and daily life has changed dramatically since the pandemic. “Covid has caused the immediate halt to live entertainment across the country, especially here in California,” she shares. “My house is a musical playground that I’ve been assembling over the past two years; as if I were preparing for times like this. My studio, with keyboards and computers is where I do all of my production work. Downstairs, is where the grand piano lives and where I practice and do most of my composing. The garage has been transformed into a live band room, where I rehearse, record and stream. No matter where I am music is heard all throughout the house.” While Gail has made it a mission to ensure that the music plays on no matter what, she has one simple wish. “I’m hoping the music will be inspirational enough to make people play it over and over again. The world is in such disarray right now and I am hopeful that this music will offer Joy!, even a little bit will do.”