Minneapolis loves Pink Martini

By anne
June 24, 2007 - 01:56.

It’s been 24 hours and I am still in a Pink Martini haze. No, not from pink drinks. I listened to—no, felt…absorbed…BECAME—the music of Pink Martini, the 14-piece band who performed Saturday night at Orchestra Hall.

I got the perfect roll of the dice: row 6, seat 6. I could see their faces, hear their inhalations, and watch their legs move to samba, salsa, and bolero beats. On CD, they’re inspiring. Live, they’re an absolute thrill. And what else would you expect from people with names like Thomas Lauderdale (piano), China Forbes (lead vocals), Martín Zarzar (drums), and Pansy Chang (cello)? They were born cool.

This was Pink Martini’s first Minneapolis performance. In fact, until Saturday night, none of the band members had been outside of our airport. They’re from Portland, and if I could hear live music like this once a week, I think I’d move there.

The concert was part of Minnesota Orchestra’s Weekender Pops series, which tries to entice into Orchestra Hall those music-lovers who might not buy tickets to Beethoven or Bach. It works—the house was full. Part of it was that ticket prices were $20-$40, and you just can’t beat that for this calibre of entertainment. There were shout-outs from the audience to play this tune or that one. There were screams of delight after each instrumental solo. There were two standing ovations. Clearly Pink Martini had as wonderful a time as we in the cushy seats did. It was magic!

I’ve always been irritated with post-concert reviews because I want to know how great it’s going to be BEFORE the event, while I still have a chance to buy tickets—not after the event, when a rave review only lets me know that I missed out. I really hate that. So I’m not going to go on and on about the gorgeous eyes of the Peruvian percussionist, or about the sound of his voluptuous drums. Nor will I attempt to describe the aphrodisiac effect of musicians who can sing, play and step in the language and style of seven different countries. And I’m certainly not going to risk losing friends over the fact that I could swear the male lead singer, Timothy Nishimoto, was looking right at me the entire time and that his gaze invited me to visit his wine bar, Vino Paradiso, in Portland. Okay, I think he might be gay, but still…it was a thrill.

Instead, I will urge you to buy Pink Martini CDs. I own the first two—Hang On Little Tomato (title inspired by a Hunt’s ketchup ad from 1964) and Sympathique (heard as background on The Sopranos and The West Wing)—and I’ve ordered the new one, Hey Eugene, which includes a song in Arabic. The promotional email sent by Orchestra Hall characterizes Pink Martini as “somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble and a Brazilian street band.” So there you have it. Trust me, it’s good stuff. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like this music, which is why these CDs are on my short-list for gifts I like to give.

Says leader Thomas Lauderdale: “Because everyone in the band contributes in the writing and arranging of songs, the repertoire is wildly diverse.” And, I would add, wildly impressive and fun.

At the end of the concert, China Forbes said they’ll come back to Minneapolis. That’s what singers always say, I know. But I hope she’s sincere. Meanwhile, I’m checking nwa.com for those tickets to Portland.

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