Review: Portland-based band Pink Martini


Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Portland based band Pink Martini performs at a show on Aug 5, 2016.

Started in 1994 by Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini is a musical melting pot. Lauderdale wanted to play a musical fusion of classical, jazz, bossa nova and old-fashioned pop. In 1995, China Forbes –one of Lauderdale’s Harvard classmates– worked with him to write the lyrical masterpiece known as “Sympathique.” The song became an overnight hit in both France and the rest of the business, selling over 1 million copies globally. Slowly, the band acquired more members, passing and permanent, from all parts of the world. Currently, they have a plethora of released music, performed in a variety of languages from every corner of the world. 

One of my favorite Pink Martini songs, which I would highly recommend listening to, is one of their most popular: “Hang On Little Tomato.” The song provokes positive and nostalgic emotions, even for people who have never heard it before. It starts off with simple jazz swing drums and a really catchy clarinet melody. As it progresses, China Forbes delivers a beautifully smooth verse over the clarinet. The lyrics are very consoling. Listening to this beautifully crafted track is a genuine joy. 

Another of my favorites, perhaps more so than Tomato, is the aforementioned “Sympathique.” Right off the bat, Forbes’ singing carries a soft and fuzzy weight, which along with the piano, leads the listener perfectly into an amazing chord progression. It’s surprisingly complex and long, yet it comes off as simple. The choice of chords and their delivery through the piano and guitar are very well done. Forbes’ lyrics are catchy as well, and I don’t even speak French. I’m not entirely sure what horn it is that comes in midway through the song, but it creates yet another rhythmic melody, followed by a similar tune on the piano. Overall, this song is deceivingly complex and very catchy. 

Another one of my favorite tracks is “Donde Estás Yolanda.” This track is such an interesting blend of genres, which really demonstrates this band to be a melting pot of music. Manuel Jimenez provides vocals in Spanish, which accompany yet another beautiful set of chords. It’s mainly a Latin American salsa, with some brief elements of jazz and a hint of bossa nova. Jimenez’s lyrics get stuck in my head for days at a time, along with the trumpet melody. 

Overall, I’m proud to have Pink Martini as a major Portland band in our music scene. They understand how to compose a song, and their blending of genres provides the listener with an interesting and satisfying catalog of music. I would recommend these three tracks to anyone, along with their latest album, “Je Dis Oui,” released in 2016.