BWW Reviews: PINK MARTINI a Colorful NYE at Disney Concert Hall

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Just how amazing is the music made by Pink Martini? Well, judging from their recent appearance on New Year's Eve December 31 at Walt Disney Concert Hall - and this was not their first NYE appearance in this venue - pretty awesome! How many other orchestras do you know that play such a mix of genres; classical, jazz and pop...and in so many different languages within the same program? Pink Martini is unique in that respect and they know how to rivet and hold an audience spellbound for 100 minutes.

Two of the reasons are musical director/pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale and vocalist China Forbes, who founded the group in Portland, Oregon in 1994. Tired of attending political events with boring musical guests, Lauderdale wanted to make a difference so formed a small orchestra and started performing at such events in Portland... and the rest is history. They have recorded four CDs, perform internationally, and are loved by audiences wherever they perform. The other musicians who performed NYE included: Robert Taylor, trombone; Gavin Bondy, trumpet; Nicholas Crosa, violin; Pansy Chang, cello; Maureen Love, harp; Dan Faehnle, guitar; Phil Baker, bass; Timothy Nishimoto, vocals/percussion; Brian Lavern Davis, congas/drums/percussion; Anthony Jones, percussion; Anoushirvan Rohani, piano; Hossein Salehi, santoor; and Bobak Salehi, tar/fiddle.

Guest-starring on the bill were Ari Shapiro, who sang some eclectic duets with Forbes as well as the ever popular "Get Happy!" and...the great-grandchildren of the von Trapp family singers, made famous in The Sound of Music: Sofia, Melanie, August and Amanda, who performed "Dream a Little Dream", the famous "Lonely Goatherd" from Sound of Music and an original composition "Storm". The von Trapp talent assuredly lives on in these four, whose grandfather was known in the Sound of Music movie as Kurt. They have also recorded with Pink Martini.

the von Trapp great-grandchildren

A word or two about China Forbes. This alto has a voice as clear and resounding as a bell and holds the audience in the palm of her hand regardless of what language she sings in, which includes German, French, Spanish and even Farsi. She performed as opener the delightful "Amado Mio" or "Love Me Forever", then their signature "Sympathique" ("Je ne veux pas travailler"), "Hey Eugene", "Donde Estas Yolanda?" and of course "Auld Lang Syne"...and as the closing with full conga line the rousing "Brazil". Expect the unexpected when you attend a Pink Martini concert, as not only did they perform the Persian "Happy Birthday" song, but brought on a delicious chorus of Japanese businessmen who sang and grooved with full disco motion to a number in Japanese. These gentlemen returned for the finale "Brazil" in true fashion wearing fedora/porkpie type hats to set off their business suits. Remember when American men wore hats? Very amusing with one culture melding into another!

A timeless, multi-cultural experience! This is what I enjoyed most about Pink Martini. Not only is their music a return to the various styles of yesteryear - it's like the era of the big bands with lots of different rhythms - but it's what they do with that. They traverse a multitude of cultures and end up proving that music is music, regardless of race, color or creed: everyone enjoys music and everyone has a part in it - a true musical melting pot!

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From This Author Don Grigware