A band with a name like “Pink Martini” might initially conjure up images of smoky, dimly lit piano bars where customers gather for dreamy lounge music and colorful cocktails.
While some sounds from this 12-piece, Portland, Ore.-based ensemble may lend themselves to these associations, many fans would insist that the lounge element is only one component of an otherwise unexpected landscape of sounds to come from a band named after a cocktail. Known for combining international flavors as diverse as Latin rumbas, cosmopolitan caf? piano tunes and African percussive undertones, Pink Martini is perhaps more aptly described as akin to the experience of a cultural exchange.
The band brings its unique blend of bongos, congas, trombones and strings to Lisner Auditorium for a performance tonight at 8 p.m.
Lead singer for Pink Martini, China Forbes, whose jazzy, often soulful vocals anchor much of the group’s repertoire of songs, says that Pink Martini strives to create a musical journey for listeners throughout every performance. “At the end of each show, we hope that our audiences will feel transported and entertained” she said.
While the band may strive to take its audience on a musical escape, one should not expect a single stop, but rather a multitude of cross-country destinations, much like the band’s experiences of touring and song-writing across the globe.
Since its founding in 1994 by Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini has toured extensively, building on what Forbes (a long-time friend and Harvard classmate of Lauderdale) describes as the band’s “ever-broadening sound.”
The first sounds to emerge from Pink Martini’s 1997 debut album “Sympathique” (Heinz Records), which sold over 700,000 copies worldwide, incorporated an eclectic mix of romantic standards, jazz harmonies and Latin-inspired rhythms. Since the band’s 2004 sophomore release of “Hang On Little Tomato,” Forbes said the band’s range of influences has continued to grow. “It is impossible to limit Pink Martini to a particular genre,” she said. “Creatively, it’s so much fun to be a part of something that is flexible, and open-minded and not limited to radio preferences or pre-conceived notions.”
The worldwide success of Pink Martini, particularly in France, Switzerland, Greece and Turkey, is largely due to the band’s whole approach to creating a sound that is all-inclusive and multi-lingual (songs off of the band’s albums have featured vocals in French, Spanish, Japanese and Croatian, among others). While they have achieved the most critical success throughout Europe, Pink Martini has also seen its music featured in dozens of U.S.-produced films and television shows including “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing.”
While touring the world, including its four sold-out concerts with The Boston Pops in May 2005, Pink Martini has also joined orchestras including the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Oregon Symphony. According to Forbes, each musical collaboration and destination on their tour invites a different international vibe from audiences young and old. Pink Martini’s approach to creating music that is simultaneously modern and timeless in sensibility is what Forbes hopes will attract GW students to Pink Martini’s Thursday Lisner performance.
Said Forbes: “I hope that students will leave the show feeling as thought they have taken a musical journey with us.”
Pink Martini brings its mini-orchestra of sounds to GW’s Lisner Auditorium Thursday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$35. GW Students: $15.
This article appeared in the September 21, 2006 issue of the Hatchet.