tampabay.com

Melting pot music in pops finale

By JOHN FLEMING
Published May 20, 2006


TAMPA - Lounge music, cafe music, post-modern classical, crossover - you name it and the label has been applied to the music of Pink Martini. None of the labels do it justice. For one thing, the band from Portland, Ore., generated remarkable power in its full symphonic arrangements with the Florida Orchestra, playing the season's final and most polished, enjoyable pops program Friday night in Morsani Hall of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

The 11-member band, including violin and cello, guitar, much percussion and trumpet, was wedged in between the podium and orchestra, with leader Thomas Lauderdale at the piano, his back to the audience. Susan Haig conducted. Effective stage lighting added to the allure of the production.

When Pink Martini and the orchestra launched into big numbers like Donde Estas, Yolanda? or Aspettami, it was exciting stuff.

China Forbes' sexy, amused vocals were a highlight in songs like a French ode to smoking and The Gardens of Sampson & Beasley. Her moody Que Sera, Sera was a noirish alternative to the strangely sunny Doris Day rendition in the Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Cinematic images were apt. In some ways, Pink Martini's music seems most reminiscent of French and Italian film scores from the 1960s and '70s, and indeed, you can hear songs by the band in movies such as In the Cut and Nurse Betty and on TV shows such as The Sopranos and The West Wing.

There also is a hard-driving jazz and salsa element to the repertoire that owes a lot to the great Latin bands of Machito and Tito Puente, not to mention those of Stan Kenton and Dizzy Gillespie.

And the eclecticism doesn't end there. Violinist Nicholas Crosa brought great flair to a Fritz Kreisler romantic bonbon. Guitarist Phil Baker played the bossa nova-flavored Cante e Dance. Lauderdale had a nimble piano part in Malaguena. Pink Martini makes melting pot music.Haig and the orchestra prepared the way for their guest artists with old-fashioned pops fare from a variety of traditions. There were movements from Ravel's shimmering homage to the Baroque, Le Tombeau de Couperin, plus the folk dances of Borodin's Prince Igor. Selections from Bizet's Carmen featured assistant principal flute Daphne Soellner in a lyrical solo.

Principal oboe Martin Hebert, who is departing for the same position with the Oregon Symphony next season, played his pops swan song, with numerous solos in the first half of the program.

John Fleming can be reached at 727 893-8716 or fleming@sptimes.com.