IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Pink Martini stirring those thirsting for joy

Sophisticated alt-lounge music proves popular with fans
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Pink Martini is a musical cocktail that’s being savored these days — and not just by those Cosmo drinkers.

The Portland, Ore.-based group’s self-released Heinz Records album “Hang on Little Tomato” rises to No. 7 on Billboard’s top independent albums chart this week and to No. 122 on the Billboard 200. Shortly after its Oct. 19 street date, the title — the group’s sophomore collection and its first release in seven years — hit No. 1 on’s best-seller list, and it was a fixture in the e-tailer’s top 10 for three weeks.

Not too shabby for an indie group that plays a sophisticated, romantic mix of swing, lounge and world music, sung in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Greek and Japanese, among other tongues.

Bandleader-pianist-writer Thomas Lauderdale says that Pink Martini is fulfilling the needs of an underserved audience.

“There’s a loss of commitment to a certain kind of beauty in our culture right now,” Lauderdale says. “There’s a huge desire for that kind of optimism and beauty right now. Humanity is hoping for those moments of happiness and joy and beauty.”

The appetite for Pink Martini’s music extends well beyond national borders. According to the group’s manager John Brodie, the 1997 debut album “Sympathique” has sold 250,000 copies in the U.S. and more than 650,000 worldwide. “In France alone, it’s over 300,000,” Brodie says.

On the road
The success of the group, which features vocalists China Forbes and Timothy Nishimoto fronting a 10- to 12-piece touring unit, has been fired by extensive global roadwork over the years.

Pink Martini has done 10 European concert sorties and has played more than 20 shows with symphony orchestras in this country. Concert symphonic performances are set for early next year in Seattle; Kansas City, Mo.; Fort Worth, Texas; and Austin. In May, Pink Martini will make its debut with the Boston Pops.

Lauderdale says of the orchestral gigs, “It’s a continuation of the whole ‘Gilda’-’La Dolce Vita’ atmosphere.”

The film references are apropos, since Pink Martini’s music has been increasingly used in movie and TV soundtracks. Its songs have been heard in the features “Josie & the Pussycats,” “In the Cut,” “Nurse Betty,” “Big Trouble” and “Tortilla Soup” and on the series “The Sopranos,” “The West Wing,” “Felicity,” “Third Watch” and “Dead Like Me.”

Lauderdale attributes the interest of music supervisors to the ongoing support of Los Angeles NPR outlet KCRW, which has championed the band since its inception.

He adds: “I grew up loving the music of (film composers) Bernard Herrmann and Nino Rota. The music we’re doing is old-fashioned, in the Hollywood sense. A lot of times I’m astonished by the lack of melody in the huge Hollywood films. (The score) almost seems like an afterthought.”

Hollywood will get a chance to train its eyes and ears on Pink Martini at the turn of the year: The group, which helped inaugurate the Walt Disney Concert Hall in October, will perform two shows at the Frank Gehry-designed venue on New Year’s Eve, as it did last year.