Pink Martini is different — and proud of it

Pink Martini is different — and proud of it
Portland, Ore.-based Pink Martini, formed in 1994 by Thomas Lauderdale, far left, plays an amalgam of jazz, pop and Latin. The group performs Feb. 7 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. Courtesy photo

It’s not easy for a front person in a band to share the limelight. Egos tend to get in the way. For evidence, check out the recent compelling Oasis documentary “Supersonic.”

However, there are no such issues with Pink Martini. China Forbes has no issues sharing her gig as the front person with vocalist Storm Large.

“I have no problems with that,” Forbes says. “It’s good for a mother of a young son to be able to focus on him and then there are times when I can go out and be with the band. Storm and I have worked it out. I can go do one leg of a tour and she can do another. Everybody is happy. I have no complaints.”

The unusual situation started courtesy of the vocal surgery Forbes had in 2011, which forced her to take a hiatus from the band. Pink Martini called a reluctant Large. “When the offer arrived, I didn’t want to do it,” Large recalled. “But (pianist-songwriter) Thomas (Lauderdale) insisted. I said, ‘I never heard your music.’ He said it didn’t matter. And he was right.”

There is no band that sounds like the eccentric and adventurous Pink Martini. So perhaps it figures that it’s fronted by two unselfish but dynamic and captivating vocalists. The Portland, Oregon-based band primarily delivers an amalgam of jazz, pop and Latin.

“What I love about being in this band is that it’s so different than any other group,” Forbes says.

The act, which will perform Feb. 7 at the California Center for the Arts is out behind “Je Dis Oui,” (which means I say yes). The album is an eclectic world music project on which Pink Martini takes a number of sonic chances. The sounds of Arabic, Japanese and Portuguese are rendered.

“Thomas can put anything together and make it work,” Forbes says. “That’s the way it’s always been with him.”

Forbes and Lauderdale have been friends for 30 years. They met while they were attending Harvard University. “On paper it seemed like it would work with us musically,” Forbes says. “Thomas was a classical pianist and I was in rock bands. We developed this special connection. I told him that I wanted to study opera. It wasn’t his thing but Thomas got some sheet music and he accompanied me. We became very good friends. We played together but we didn’t write a song until Pink Martini started.”

Pink Martini was formed in 1994 by Lauderdale. At that time, Forbes was immersed in New York’s singer-songwriter scene. “Thomas asked me come out and sing with him. It was a total lark. I never thought we would be in a band together but it happened and it’s one of the best choices that I made. I love being part of Pink Martini. It’s been the greatest experience.”

For many musicians, a gig in Pink Martini would be daunting considering how versatile and unpredictable Pink Martini is in the studio and onstage. “I think this group might be a bit much for some people but not me,” Forbes says “I was in rock bands, the choir, I did madrigals and I was part of musical theater. I also play guitar. I feel like I’m ready for anything when it comes to music. Being part of Pink Martini, which is so wonderfully eclectic, is natural for me. My musicianship is innate. I can’t write sheet music like Thomas but what we have works. It’s been an amazing experience.”

Forbes hopes to be part of Pink Martini for years. “There’s no reason to stop,” Forbes said. “I’ve been part of it this long and what’s nice is that I don’t have to do it all. Storm can come in and do her part. The situation is perfect.”

Pink Martini appears Wednesday Feb. 7 at the California Center for the Arts, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido. Tickets are $30 and $45. Show time is 7:30 p.m. For more information, call (760) 839-4138 or visit www.artcenter.org.

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