tue 22/05/2018

Pink Martini, Brighton Dome | reviews, news & interviews

Pink Martini, Brighton Dome

Pink Martini, Brighton Dome

American miniature jazz orchestra give a boisterous night's entertainment

Thomas Lauderdale at piano, Storm Large on couch

"An Evening with Pink Martini" consists of two sets by the Portland, Oregon group/mini-orchestra. Of these, the first takes the prize, but only by a very short lead. During it the nine-piece, led by Thomas Lauderdale at the piano, seem to relax and really allow spontaneity to take hold, in a manner that’s both risky and thrilling, in terms of stagecraft. At one point trombonist Antonis Andreou is coaxed to sing a number in Greek that he can hardly remember, which means moments of quiet conflab with lead singer Storm Large. Or there’s Large’s off-the-cuff, innuendo-filled and thoroughly entertaining rendition of the Marlene Dietrich parody “I’m Tired”, from the Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles. Pink Martini seem to be having a great deal of fun, and it feels as if we’re lucky enough to be eavesdropping on it.

On record, this twenty-something year old outfit’s hugely educated take on global pop, a multi-lingual, precisely crafted, light, jazzy stew, can sometimes seem a little fussy, a little too Ivy League-smart, but live they're a revelation – sassy, cheeky, amusing, with cabaret timing and pithy one-liners down pat. Their musicianship, from violin to trumpet to double bass to multiple percussion, is never in question. They alternate lead singers, with longstanding vocalist China Forbes sitting this tour out so that relative newbie Storm Large is to the fore. Clad in cleavage-revealing, backless, split-skirt dresses, with a giant tattoo on her back saying “LOVER”, she’s every inch the blond Hollywood vamp. Against a red curtain backdrop, she and Lauderdale hold court and lead from the front.

The title cut from their 2009 album 'Splendor in the Grass' is especially gorgeous

Typical of Pink Martini’s fare is a version of the Doris Day classic “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps”, but performed as Cuban lounge music and titled accordingly “Quizás Quizás Quizás”. This is followed immediately by a song originally sung by Mamie Van Doren in a German low budget western in 1964.

They pack so much into the two halves. They have another singer in Timothy Nishimoto, who’s as happy singing the Armenian love song “Ov Sirun Sirun” from their latest album Je Dis Oui, as he is paying tribute to a whacky Japanese uncle in song form. The title cut from their 2009 album Splendor in the Grass, loosley based on a Walt Whitman poem, is especially gorgeous, a fine country-tinged showcase for Lauderdale’s songwriting ability. They also revel in pulling people up on stage, putting out a call for Turkish members of the crowd to sing and dance along to the folk song “Üsküdar'a Gideriken”. They invite a possible pianist to join them for the two-song suite “And Then You’re Gone”/”But Now I’m Back”. Fortuitously, she turns out to be a slightly tipsy lady who can't actually play piano at all and who proves somewhat hard to corral, which only adds to the entertainment.

The crowd participation reaches a peak in the final encore number, the perennial classic “Brasil”, whereupon the stage fills up for an extended dance-athon. It is a suitably joyous end to a night in which Pink Martini prove to be mighty entertainers, able to blend improvisatory flights of fancy and comic brilliance with the highest quality musicianship.

Watch Pink Martini play "Ov Sirun Sirun" live in the studio

This is followed immediately by a song originally sung by Mamie Van Doren in a German low budget western in 1964


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article


It was indeed a fantastic evening. Joyful, fabulous music and great fun. I love Pink Martini and make an enormous effort to see them when they visit the UK. I drove up from Devon...lots of miles , lots of hours in the car....but So worth it.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters