Pink Martini (photo: Gene Stout)
Pink Martini (photo: Gene Stout)

The title of Pink Martini’s current album, “Splendor in the Grass,” is the perfect phrase to describe the first of two recent shows at Chateau Ste. Michelle.

The group’s spirited, orchestral performance Sunday (Aug. 29) drew a capacity crowd to the sprawling lawn outside the Woodinville winery, where a summer concert series is staged each year.

On a rainless, late-summer day, concertgoers spread out their picnic baskets and blankets for a long, laid-back evening of what affable band leader Thomas Lauderdale has called “music of the world without being world music.”

The concert ran the gamut from classical to old-school pop, with plenty of humorous stories by Lauderdale about the origins of various songs.

Many have never heard of the 12-piece Portland, Ore., group featuring four percussionists and the lovely, semi-operatic China Forbes, who sings in multiple languages, among them French, Croatian, Arabic and Japanese. But Pink Martini’s fans are legion.

Pink Martini crowds (photo: Gene Stout)
Pink Martini crowds (photo: Gene Stout)

Disappointed by the quality of music at political fundraisers he had attended, Lauderdale (who had once considered a run for Portland mayor) formed the group in 1994, creating a fun, sophisticated repertoire that would appeal to conservatives as well as liberals.

Pink Martini opened the show with “Lilly,” a song from the group’s 2004 album, “Hang On Little Tomato.” Forbes described the tune as “a song about a little dog.” The second song, “Anna,” featured the vocals of Timothy Nishimoto. Another song, the bilingual “Ohayoo Ohio,” featured Forbes, who has perhaps the most expressive arms of any singer I have seen recently. She waved them about, held them aloft and often engaged concertgoers in similar arm-waving.

Lauderdale described the wonderful “Splendor in the Grass” as a song with hints of the Carpenters and Tchaikovsky. “Bitty Boppy Betty,” also from the current album, was a humorous ode to “a cross-dressing district attorney.”

The sound was excellent throughout the show, with every note crisp and clear.

A pair of new songs, the Schubert-inspired “And Then You’re Gone” and “But Now I’m Back,” were musical bookends to the same story about a caddish lover. Lauderdale explained that the tunes were inspired by a cab driver at an Italian film festival.

Pink Martini (photo:
Pink Martini (photo:

Musical guests included classical accordionist Patricia Costa Kim, a former education director for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra (on a piece by Ernest Bloch); and singer-actor Emilio Delgado of “Sesame Street” fame. Delgado sang an amusing medley of songs from the children’s show, among them “Rubber Ducky” and “Sing,” the Carpenters hit originally created for “Sesame Street.”

After a short intermission, the group returned for a set featuring many of its foreign-language songs, among them “Malaguena,” “Donde Estas Yolanda,” “Tuca Tuca,” “Cante e Dance” and the delightful “Dosvedanya Mio Bombino,” which closed the set.

A highlight of the second set was “Hey Eugene!” The title song of the group’s 2007 album has been a longtime fan favorite. Written by Forbes, the amusing song is about a boy who asked for her phone number but never called.

The group returned for an encore of “Amado Mio” and the soaring “Brazil,” both featured on the group’s “Discover the World: Live in Concert DVD.”

Visit the band’s Web site by following this link.

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