Los Angeles Music Review: PINK MARTINI (LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl)

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by Jesse David Corti on July 29, 2013

in Theater-Los Angeles

A ZESTY SUMMER COCKTAIL

In their seventeen years as a fourteen member full “little orchestra,” Pink Martini has established a reputation for clever, daring, sophisticated and delightful music. Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of Pink Martini at the Hollywood BowlThe unusually overcast sky at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday evening provided an excellent opportunity for LA Phil and Pink Martini to perk up the environment with some much needed color and sunshine. Did they deliver? Like a double rainbow. Whether it’s blending Samba with Schubert or setting “Puff the Magic Dragon” to Japanese, Pink Martini’s musical proficiency and stylistic dexterity yielded surprising and thoroughly engaging songs. Conducted by the simultaneously jocular and accomplished Bramwell Tovey, “the big orchestra” amplified Pink Martini’s music with crisp, tender, and supple support.

China Forbes and Storm Large shared lead vocals throughout the evening, Forbes handling most of the back-catalogue, including crowd favorites “Hey Eugene” and “Sympathique,” while Large sang more of the newer selections from Pink Martini’s soon-to-be released album, aptly titled Get Happy. Forbes’ voice, after a Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowllengthy hiatus that involved intense surgery on her vocal chords, was just as full-bodied and resonant as it was when Sympathique was released in 1994. Equal parts spunk, class, and sass, she commanded the stage with her suave presence and soaring voice. If Forbes’ voice is like a floodlight, then Large’s is a powerful, highly concentrated spotlight. On the mournful, heartsick Romanian tune, “Pana Cand Nu Te Iubeam,” Large immersed herself in the gypsy groove and mesmerized the audience with a stirring, soulful performance. Timothy Nishimoto’s salsa-laced soul let loose on lead vocal for a few tunes, with the most memorable being the lively and spicy “¿Donde Estas, Yolanda?”

The evening had its share of special guests including NPR correspondent Ari Shapiro and the “Barbara Streisand of Japan,” Miss Saori Yuki. Shapiro joined the stage to sing “But Now I’m Back” from the soon to be released Get Happy, displaying an impressive tenor range with breezy flair. On his second song, “Yo Te Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of Pink Martini at the Hollywood BowlQuiero Siempre,” the multilingual standard fell a bit short with his Americana accent pervading the otherwise well-sung, sumptuous ballad. Yuki glided across the stage in her Hollywood Bowl debut, wearing a highly ornate, white kimono, singing selections from her record 1969, produced by Pink Martini. She showed off her still powerful voice (she’s been recording since 1969) on the first song, but it was during “Puff the Magic Dragon” when a delightful meeting took place between playfulness and reverence that was both light and refreshing. Guest instrumentalist Masumi Tuson provided delicate and tender touches on the Koto.

A very, very special guest clarinetist made his Hollywood Bowl debut at the tender, youthful age of 95: Legendary arranger Norman Leyden, best known for being both musical director for Arthur Godfrey’s radio program and for writing “I Sustain the Wings” with Glenn Miller. He performed his solo from “Hang on Little Tomato” and jumped in a few times to solo and offer some call and response during an extended instrumental jam.

Pink Martini excellently executed eighteen selections covering at least a dozen styles of song, sung in eight different languages: Romanian, Farsi, English, Spanish, Italian, French, German, and Japanese. To cap off the evening, bandleader Timothy Lauderdale, whose ivory tickling was superb, requested some house lights, and Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowlasked the audience to form a conga line while the band played the immortal “Brazil.” The festivity was a fitting way to close out the celebration of culture, sophistication, and class with a great, big party with music from not one but two exceptional orchestras operating in tandem, LA Phil and Pink Martini. I was fortunate enough to bump into Lauderdale outside the bowl after the concert and asked what he enjoyed most about the evening, “The conga line, definitely,” he answered with a smile. This proves – even after seventeen years – how much Pink Martini truly cares about the ephemeral rush of blood to the head that their fans and audience will remember long after the final chord and crash cymbal ring out.

Jesse David Corti’s Stage and Cinema review of Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl

Pink Martini with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Hollywood Bowl
played July 19-21, 2013
for future LA Phil events, visit http://www.laphil.com/

for more info on Pink Martini, visit http://pinkmartini.com/

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