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Jazzfest: Pink Martini an impressive cocktail of genres and sounds

By Marina Irick on July 2, 2015

The evening sky glowed a peachy hue on Monday night as Pink Martini took the Jazzfest main stage to entertain Ottawa concert-goers with their impressive cocktail of genres, languages and sounds.

The show began with an instrumental introduction by the 10-man band comprised of trumpet, piano, guitar, trombone, and percussion, before vocalist China Forbes glided on stage alongside bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale in front of a receptive overflow crowd in Confederation Park.

From the moment Forbes unleashed her powerful, perfectly controlled, and seductively smooth vocals, the Ottawa audience was captivated.

Pink MartiniBeginning with “Amado Mio”, Pink Martini’s 90-minute performance took us across different languages, cultures, and continents – showcasing the enormous talents of all members of the band.

Forbes introduced their well-known song “Sympatique” (Je ne veux pas travailler/I don’t want to work) with an anecdote of how it came to be. She and Lauderdale (one-time Harvard classmates) “borrowed” some of the lines from a well-known French poem, which fit perfectly with a melody they’d created.

Soon after, they were flown to France and sued. The song had become wildly popular, Forbes explained, because it was introduced as France shortened the work week to 35 hours.  She told the audience that “after they sued us, they asked us for our autographs.”

France is not the only place enthralled by Pink Martini. Their fan-following extends around the world. They performed their second Turkish song (the first one was on their album Get Happy), as well as a song in Croatian about a train, which began with a mellow and mesmerizing violin solo. Energetic percussionist and vocalist Timothy Nishimoto, dressed in a new shiny silver suit, had the audience clapping to an as-yet-unrecorded Hindi melody.

Bandleader and founder Lauderdale has described Pink Martini as the United Nations house band and we could hear why – in addition to the wildly eclectic mix already described, there was a bossa nova in Japanese as well as sultry songs in German, Spanish and English that spanned more than 85 years. A highlight of the evening was the emotion-filled performance by trombonist Robert Taylor of the 1930 song “She was too good to me.”

Interwoven throughout the international mix were lullabies and beautiful ballads – one written by Forbes for her son spoke of the view from her house in Portland. She dedicated the song to her cousin, who lives in Ottawa and attended the show with her husband and children.

The evening capped off with a classic Streisand-Garland duet of “Come on get happy” (performed by Forbes and Nishimoto) before the audience jumped to its feet demanding an encore. Pink Martini returned to the stage and got everyone dancing and swaying to the song “Brazil” before promising to return to Ottawa very soon.

We can’t wait.