Thomas Lauderdale is adamant about one thing — Pink Martini is not a jazz band and he would never, ever classify himself as a jazz pianist.
Funny that, considering that the 12-person band is scheduled to play Ottawa’s Jazz Festival and the band is often shelved under the category. It’s a dilemma that Lauderdale, the musical director and pianist, has become accustomed to.
“I like to think of it as old-fashioned pop.” He laughs, continuing, “The only thing I know about jazz, is that I know nothing about jazz.”
Pink Martini was formed in 1994 for a political rally. Lauderdale explains, “There was this very nasty attempt to illegalize homosexuality in Oregon, in 1994. We were on the opposition side and we had the Del Rubio Triplets perform. They were these three sisters in their 70s, they lived in a mobile home, they performed in miniskirts and booties. They were hardcore Catholic and they ate steaks and martinis. The gay community just loved them. So we needed an opener for the Del Rubio Triplets and that’s originally why Pink Martini was formed.”
An international ambassador of culture as a talented pianist with Pink Martini, Lauderdale has become known around the globe. The charismatic, blonde pianist has a wicked sense of style and a flamboyant energy at the keys. At Ottawa’s jazz festival he will be one of the only known out pianists. And Lauderdale is out with style.
But the jazz world has a slightly uptight reputation. Capital Xtra hoped that Lauderdale could explain why there are so few out jazz musicians.
“Jazz is just so super, super cool. And it has a reputation of being straight. Uber-cool and uber-straight. It’s never been very inclusive of homosexuality. And there isn’t a whole lot of history of gay jazz musicians.”
Bringing their “night-time frivolity” to the Ottawa Jazz Festival on June 27th, Pink Martini will be sharing material from their newest release, their third album, Hey Eugene. Delivered with sultry grace by lead singer China Forbes the album is a 12- track sonic journey with a no-holds-barred dose of cabaret showmanship and old-fashioned party tunes.
Here’s hoping Lauderdale’s fun out-ness will rub off on a couple of those uber-cool jazz dudes.