Pink Martini….“The Little Orchestra”

There’s a band that has two songwriters who graduated with honors from Harvard.  They perform songs in English, French, Italian, Spanish, and multiple other languages.  Their music combines Pop, Classical, Jazz, and more, which makes it impossible to categorize.  They are unique.  Their first album sold over a million copies, and about half of the sales were in Europe.

Not your average American Band.

Our first exposure to Pink Martini came about through good luck.  In the fall of 2005, we were living in Lincoln, Nebraska, and our son and daughter-in-law (Paul & Shawnde) were visiting from Corvallis, Oregon.  As the four of us were walking along a street in Lincoln, they spotted a poster for a Portland band, Pink Martini, that was set to perform at Omaha’s Orpheum Theatre.  Paul & Shawnde said Pink Martini’s shows in Oregon were always sold out, but we were able to get four tickets to the show in Omaha.

What we witnessed that night was what founder, pianist and songwriter Thomas Lauderdale calls “The Little Orchestra”.  There were eleven members, and as they played the first song, we could see that each musician appeared to be a virtuoso.

The vocalist with the wonderfully clear soprano voice was the other songwriter, China Forbes.

(Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes)

We were extremely impressed that night and purchased the two CD’s they had produced for their own label, Heinz Records.  Many of the songs they record are originals written by Thomas Lauderdale and China Forbes, sometimes using co-writers to help with the many languages they use for their World Music.  Here’s one of their English language Pop songs with a brief Classical intro.  It’s called “Let’s Never Stop Falling In Love”.  It was featured in the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie movie Mr. & Mrs. Smith.

Thomas Lauderdale started Pink Martini in the ‘90’s, mostly to play at local events in Portland, Oregon.  When he needed a vocalist, he called his good friend from Harvard, China Forbes.  She had been performing off Broadway, but decided to fly to Portland for a couple of weeks.  Lauderdale convinced her to stay (in 1998), and Pink Martini progressed into a group that performs at sold out shows in Europe and America.

Here are their first two albums.  They’re filled with songs that have melodies that are so well written they’ll stay with you after just a few listens.  Most of the songs are vocals, but there are also instrumentals that highlight the talents of the players.  Here’s their arrangement of “Andalucia”:

And, here’s an example of a song they wrote in Italian, “Una Notte A Napoli” (One Night In Naples).  It starts slowly, but then the rhythm kicks in.

My wife and I moved to Oregon in 2008, and have seen Pink Martini perform at an outdoor concert in Bend, and with the symphony here in Eugene.  We also saw Thomas Lauderdale in a knockout performance of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody In Blue” in Salem.

There can’t be another group that wrote a song based on a Hunt’s Catsup ad.  The ad said “Hang on little tomato” until you’re ready to become Hunt’s Catsup.  The beautiful little song by Pink Martini is not about tomatoes, but presents the idea that people in a dark time of their lives, should hang on until sunny days return.  Here’s “Hang On Little Tomato” (the vocal comes in after the melody is established for nearly half of the 3:16 song):

If you’re interested in hearing more of Pink Martini, you can stream their first two albums, or try their compilation album “A Retrospective”.  Getting to know them will give you a unique listening experience.

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