Pink Martini w / The Louisville Orchestra
Review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents copyright © 2016 Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
When the Louisville Orchestra announced their Pop Series schedule for the 2015-16 season I was intrigued with a scheduled performance with Pink Martini. I liked the name of the group, but had not knowingly heard anything of theirs. So, as any prudent devotee of music would, I searched for an online sound bite. I can’t recall the song that I listened to now, but I liked what I heard. So fast forward to Saturday night’s performance and I can now say that I loved what I heard.
It was an evening of memories of South Florida’s Tropicana Club, then on to some of the little cafés that are peppered along the streets of Paris featuring a siren-like chanteuse to lure you in and linger over a croissant and coffee. Just as you are enjoying that ambiance you are transported to the era of Big Band, such as when Cab Calloway and Jimmy Dorsey reigned supreme.
Pink Martini covers it all and they do so with style, finesse and brilliance.
With the 10-member band tightly assembled on stage with the Louisville Orchestra, the assembled group lifted the oft-played Ravel’s Bolero to new heights. I will never be able to listen to this piece the same way again.
Vocalist China Forbes has a voice perfectly suited for this group. She is sultry, seductive, educational, and stunning in one fell swoop. Her Ich dich liebe, used in a German Western starring Mammie Van Doran, was fun and indicative of the lengths to which these talented musicians will go in their music. It is hard to sing in another language, much less singing two languages in the same song. Almost every song was a standout, each building on the other, dripping of coolness. Despite Ms. Forbes’ outstanding ability, I was only minimally impressed with Ruzalka’s “Song to the Moon”. It seemed that she was a little out of breath with this Act II opening.
Vocalist Timothy Nishimoto adds a little extra spark to the ensemble with his dancing and tenor voice enlivening the songs “Donde Estes,” and “Yolanda and Zundoko Bushi”. In the “Cante De Dance” duet with Ms. Forbes the whole of Whitney Hall could have been on their feet dancing to the Portuguese rhythm.
With themes borrowed from Schubert’s Four Handed Sonata (with guest pianist Hunter Miller), Disco hit “I Will Survive”, and Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack”, the answer and call medley of two lovers quarreling, “And Then You’re Gone,” and “But Now I’m Back,” shows how much fun this group can have with music and lyrics.
One of the most stunning pieces of the evening, “U plavu zoru”, featured a cello solo that resembled the sound of a train on the tracks, and was beautiful in its simplicity and haunting vocal backdrop. As elegant as that piece was, “Flying Squirrel” was a musician’s jam session.
You know you are doing okay for yourself when you pen a song that becomes a nation’s anthem of sorts, that nation being France and the song being “Sympathetique;” within the lyrics one can see why.
One can tell that Pink Martini is used to being a 10-12 person ensemble, but believe me, when you add a full orchestra, such as our Louisville Orchestra, nuanced pieces become monumental in scope, scale, and sound, and that was the case with their involvement with Pink Martini.
I can honestly say that this group has found a new fan.
Pink Martini w/ The Louisville Orchestra
March 20, 2016
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center
501 West Main Street
Louisville, KY 40202
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville, and is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.