In April, after publishing the playlist, “Bein’ Good Isn’t Always Easy”, Community Noise was summoned to New Mexico to take in Pink Martini with friends. PM was joined by the Santa Fe Symphony Strings to play the stunning open-air Santa Fe Opera.
What a show!
The day had been hot and dry; I rushed to get into town, check into a hotel, perform some social duties, and ferry myself, Diane, and Tom up the highway in a rented convertible. During the performance, I spontaneously started taking notes and writing petite vignettes; pondering the writing of this post.
Pink Martini opened with “Pana cand nu te iubeam” (translated from the Romanian, “Until I loved you”) a song that I know, except Storm Large typically sings it. On this night we had China Forbes.
I could imagine a cobra rising from a basket, with jazz and salsa soul, dancing a slanky dance. What street corner could this be? I’m not sure. Someplace where East meets West with Cajan food steaming in the midnight air. It’s a bright night, with a toothless man in a shiny suit selling his wares in the alleyway over there.
An actual cocktail would have fit well right about here; maybe something pink and fluffy with a little umbrella. Festive.
Pink Martini is a multi-cultural ensemble, incorporating limitless cultures and genres into their music and singing songs in handfuls of different languages. Besides English, I counted Romanian, French, Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, Japanese, and Croatian. They asked for a native French speaker, and a willing Frenchman came up to help China sing a song. They couldn’t find an Arabic speaker, but a young Turkish woman joined them later for a song. She blew us away; was she a plant? Dunno. I suspect she knew the song and sang some karaoke. Mystery guest could sing and had presence. Here’s an example; it’s not the same woman and may not even be the same song, but you get the idea:
I wouldn’t normally associate bongo drums with “exotic”, but I noted:
The bongo drums seem to hold everything together – pretty wild for a salsa swing opera ensemble.
The percussion, generally, is more than a rhythm section for PM, it’s a good portion of the band’s soul.
Pianist and founder Thomas Lauderdale explained that Helen Reddy had been a guest a few evenings prior at the Hollywood Bowl; he invited women – all of them – to come up on stage. Maybe 60 or 70 women joined to sing “I am Woman.” They wore such proud faces. I asked Diane what it was like for her to see all those women up there. “Watching all those women up on stage (and they kept coming and coming!) made me feel stronger and more powerful. And anytime you get a group of women together, singing and laughing, it’s like one big party that you wish would never end.” I could not find a clip of PM playing the song, but here’s Helen giving it a swing from back in the day:
Later, a song that I didn’t know; a stiff breeze coming into the opera house, closing my eyes, picturing …
Lightning struck at dusk, storm acoming, after a dusty day of hazy skies and burning heat. The violinist worked out a somber song, the trumpet man completed the intro without want for breath, and the Croatian sang a sad, sad song. Melancholy filled the thick night air.
At blue dawn, With a light, there, At my door / You’re coming, You will find; My empty bed / While the train is taking; Me far away
Yikes. Melancholy is one way to describe that.
Timothy Nishimoto sang “Zundoko-bushi”, including his uncle-celebrating refrain, “Oh, Big One!”. My notes suggest “Puff the Magic Dragon in Japanese.” I dunno. Fun song though.
China Forbes song, “Hey Eugene”, pleases me; a good punk song informed by orchestral and operatic styles, it must be my favorite Pink Martini song. And they played it for me.
After intermission, I spontaneously quit taking notes. It’s a good thing, dear reader, you have other things to go do now. But first, let me know when you’ve seen Pink Martini and what that was like. Tell me your favorite PM song!
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