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Pink Martini Shakes It Up
By Mary Nares (Sacramento Press)
What could be more refreshing on a hot July night than a nice, cool martini?
For a thousand fans at the Mondavi Center in Davis last night, the perfect martini was pink. Crisp and cool, elegant and sophisticated, Pink Martini was fresh and fun and funky.
Pink Martini is a “small orchestra” from Portland which manages to produce a sound both wildly exotic and comfortably accessible to their diverse audiences. The ensemble of talented musicians produces a repertoire spanning several continents, a few of centuries and a baker’s dozen of genres.
Ravel’s “Bolero” led off the program, starting with some hand drums, string bass and Pansy Chang’s beautiful cello. As the piece built and expanded to include the entire orchestra, the rapt audience settled in for an evening of Pink Martini’s signature performance magic.
Throughout an entirely enjoyable program, the Pink Martini musicians showcased their considerable talents as they traded off solos and riffed against each other. From a Mozart violin concerto to a raucous jazz piece, each number illuminated another side to this popular group.
As most members of the group have studied languages, cultures and music from far beyond America, the program is spiced with songs in Spanish, French, Chinese and Turkish.
Two entirely different tunes were created from the base of Schubert’s “Fantasie in F Minor” for four hands. The Afro-Cuban-flavored feisty tango “And Now You’re Gone” is sung by a woman fed up with her faithless lover. The lover then responds with a hilarious Cab Calloway-style jazz riff on the same Schubert theme “And Now I’m Back”.
Elegant, torchy Storm Large was substituting for veteran vocalist China Forbes, who is undergoing throat surgery and a lengthy recovery. Although Large was also having some throat issues and so did not possess her full range and power, she brought both haunting beauty and barroom bawdiness to the stage. The 12 musicians are led by Thomas M. Lauderdale, a charismatic and very talented pianist who set out to create beautiful and inclusive music for progressive political fundraising events. Pink Martini soon grew beyond Lauderdale’s initial vision and became an internationally successful recording and performance ensemble. The diverse members of the orchestra are each involved in other musical endeavors, as symphony artists, rock band members, teachers, composers and solo performers.
Pink Martini inspires slightly manic loyalty in its fans. The Pink Martini Ya Yas — five Woodland women wearing pink sequined hats adorned with lighted cocktail glasses — were invited to join the orchestra onstage and sing and dance along to the salsa-spicy “Yolanda.”
This little group of nurses has followed the group to Maui, Portland, Reno, Chico and Saratoga over the past eight years or so, and has special costumes or commemorative T-shirts made for each concert.
“There is just so much fun in this, so much life!” Ya Ya Peggy Gedatus said. After the first taste of Pink Martini, it may become a delightful addiction. (7/7/2011 )