With 14 (and sometimes more) members and a penchant for singing in as many as 12 languages during any given show, Portland's Pink Martini isn't shy on ambition.
The "little-orchestra," as the band sometimes dubs itself, is led by a pair of Harvard-educated musical aficionados - pianist and bandleader Thomas Lauderdale and vocalist China Forbes - both of whom have made a life's work of studying the history of all the world's music. The band was formed by Lauderdale in 1994 when he gathered musicians to play with him at political functions - something Pink Martini continues to do to this day.
Pink Martini drastically shifts genres and cultural influences throughout its records as well as onstage, going from Russian-language tunes to contemporary, American-style songs in no time flat. The band's debut album, Sympathique, was a surprise hit and since its 2004 release has sold more than 1.3 million copies worldwide. Touring the globe and the U.S. extensively, the band has formed a wide-reaching audience with it's distinctively worldly sound. Although clearly worldly in its influences, Lauderdale told the Source Weekly that the band is actually quite American, in a way.
"Part of the mission of the band is to reclaim the larger, more diverse, real America. I consider this to be a very American project in a way; it's a reclaiming of what it means to be American," said Lauderdale. "It's our celebration of a country that's very diverse, with people of every religion and language. It's a more accurate depiction of Modern America."
More recently, the band released Splendor in the Grass, another collection of multi-genre, multicultural and multilanguage songs that are sung in five different languages. Pink Martini also showed its endless creativity and flexibility when it released its first holiday album, Joy to the World, which in true Pink Martini style, featured holiday songs from around the world.
In searching for influences, Lauderdale and company scan antique shops and vintage record stores, scouring the record bins for lost sounds. Whether it's the glamour of a 1940s Hollywood glam piece or a big-band-tinged swing number, Pink Martini has a penchant for reviving lost sounds while adding their own uniquely modern twist.
"I really like the old-fashioned songwriting of the 30s, 40s, 50s and early 60s. They're beautiful. They've got beautiful melodies and these great lyrics," Lauderdale told the Source Weekly.
This little orchestra is no stranger to the Les Schwab Amphitheater, having played several shows at venue, including appearances in 2007 and 2009. When Pink Martini played most recently, they were joined by the Oregon 234th Army Band to play a custom-built show of Oregon-inspired. This time around, the band will be on their own, but with a small army of their own up on stage, Pink Martini will be able to make plenty of sound.