Pink Martini
with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Date and Venue 28June 2009 @ 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer John Jane

Hugely popular at last year’s Vancouver Jazz Festival when they performed at the same venue; Portland, Oregon's Pink Martini return with their potent blend of cosmopolitan jazz, Cuban-fusion and orchestral musical styles. Since last year, bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale comes across as even more camp while singer China Forbes looks a little less svelte (pregnancy will do that to a gal).

Performance-wise the twelve-piece band joins forces with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) under the direction of assistant conductor Evan Mitchell to take the audience on a musical world cruise. The programme was certainly eclectic; with genres encompassing baião, bossa nova, samba, classical and even opera.

Opening with Cuban composer Osvaldo Farrés’ Quizás, Quizás, Quizás (Perhaps perhaps perhaps), the audience burst into applause after just a few opening notes from China Forbes. Ms Forbes, dressed in a baby blue strapless gown, provides an elegant counterpoint to Lauderdale’s eccentric kitsch. She enthralled her audience singing in multiple languages that included Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Turkish.

Forbes isn't afraid to have fun with the crowd at her own expense. Introducing Je ne veux pas travailler, a French language song that she penned in collaboration with Lauderdale, she drew chuckles from female members of the audience, who obviously related to her anecdote about pregnancy altering her smoking habits.

Ms Forbes continued to delight the audience with one of the band’s signature tunes, Donde estas, Yolanda? (Where are you, Yolanda?) from their ‘Sympathique’ CD. But not all the band’s programme was selected from their recorded material. I’m sure the many Pink Martini fans in Sunday evening’s audience might have considered that Thomas Lauderdale’s interpretation of George Gershwin's Concerto in F performed with the VSO to be a concert highlight. Always the consummate showman, Lauderdale crouched and bounced all over his piano stool in what was a truly dynamic realization of Gershwin's free-flowing jazz inflected work.

Trombonist Rob Taylor crooned his way through Veronique; a tune picked from the band’s ‘Hang on Little Tomato’ CD. Taylor’s voice is plainly under-powered, but his low-key style suited the song’s sombre mood. China Forbes concluded the show in antithetical fashion with a zippy performance of Brasil, a Carmen Miranda tune sung in Portuguese.

An enduring standing ovation drew a generous, albeit a theatrically reluctant encore served up without the members of the VSO. Ms Forbes led the group with the lounge style tune, “What’ill I do?” followed by a breezy samba, entitled “Lilly.”

These super-talented guys may not care to take themselves too seriously, but they certainly take their music seriously.

© 2009 John Jane