PORTLAND – Thomas Lauderdale, songwriter, composer, pianist, founder and leader of Oregon-based world-music outfit Pink Martini, likes to say the band sounds like “Mary Poppins meets the United Nations.”

Maine fans will get to hear that mix when the self-described “musical archaeologists” of Pink Martini bring their eclectic, pan-global pastiche to Portland for the first time. PCA Great Performances will present the critically acclaimed, 12-piece musical ensemble at 8 p.m. Friday, March 7, in Merrill Auditorium.

The Boston Globe recently described a Pink Martini concert as “one part French chanson, one part Argentine tango, one part soft merengue beat and a dash of gin-joint jazz. Combine ingredients and shake vigorously over old Hollywood glamour.”

Lauderdale founded Pink Martini in 1994, primarily as the house band for political fundraisers for his favorite progressive causes in Oregon. Things took off for the band in the late 1990s when sultry vocalist, songwriter and longtime Lauderdale friend China Forbes joined the ensemble full time. The first Lauderdale-Forbes composition, a jaunty outing called “Sympathique” or “Je ne Veux pas Travailler (I Don’t Want to Work)” became a huge hit in France, cementing Pink Martini’s status on the European music scene. The band subsequently garnered popularity Stateside, performing multiple concerts on its own and also fronting prestigious orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Boston Pops.

“We’re very much an American band,” said Lauderdale in a prepared statement. “But we spend a lot of time abroad, too – in Europe, in Turkey, in Lebanon. … Our goal is to make music that has broad appeal to people, no matter who they are or where they come from. We play the same music wherever we go, whether it’s a small farming community in Oregon or in France or even in Turkey with a symphony.”

Members of Pink Martini, besides Lauderdale and Forbes, are Robert Taylor, trombone; Gavin Bondy, trumpet; Paloma Griffin, violin; Brian Lavern Davis, congas, drums, percussion; Derek Rieth, percussion; Martin Zarzar, drums; Phil Baker, bass; and Timothy Nishimoto, vocals and percussion. Joining Pink Martini for the current tour are Pansy Chang, Claude Giron and Brant Taylor, cellos; Dan Faehnle, guitar; Nicholas Corosa, violin; Maureen Love, harp; and Jeffery Budin, trombone.

Pink Martini’s third recording, “Hey Eugene!” – a mix of jazz, eastern European klezmer, Latin dance music and film noir soundscapes – was released on the band’s own Heinz record label last fall.

Tickets to the March 7 concert are $46, $38 and $28. Tickets are available through PortTix, the box office at Merrill Auditorium; by calling 842-0800; and online at pcagreatperformances.org.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.