Pink Martini shines at Longwood Gardens

July 14, 2011 – Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Pink Martini and their brilliant fusion of classical, jazz, swing and Latin rhythms light up the concert hall at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa.

The Portland-based band is actually a 13-piece orchestra formed in 1994 by bandleader Thomas Lauderdale and lead singer China Forbes, who sadly isn’t on tour this summer. She is set to undergo vocal cord surgery that will keep her sidelined for the next year.

When we heard that Forbes wasn’t touring, we almost cancelled our tickets but I’m glad we didn’t. Storm Large, of Rock Star: Supernova fame, another Portland area export took her place and wowed the crowd with her raspy vocals. Yes, we missed Forbes and her trademark voice, but Pink Martini is also about the music, and after opening with a wonderfully seductive version of Ravel’s Bolero, with a Brazilian flair no less, we settled in for a night of melodies that would please even the harshest of critics.

Pink Martini is best known for their Latin-style rhythms, which for me conjures up visions of Ricky Ricardo singing Babaloo. Gotta love it. It’s impossible to fit them into one genre of music style, but if forced to do so, world music may describe them best. During the set the singers performed in English, Chinese, Spanish, Turkish, French and Croatian. I suppose that’s why Lauderdale says, “If the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”

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