Pink Martini opens Craterian

When pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale founded a "little orchestra" in 1994 in Portland, he aimed for nothing more than to play fundraisers for the causes like affordable housing and public broadcasting.

Thirteen years later, Pink Martini is a hot item both live and recorded, not only in the United States but in France, Asia, Greece, Turkey and elsewhere.

Pink Martini will make a return visit to the Rogue Valley Sept. 8 for a show at the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford.

The date will kick off the band's fall tour, which will include three nights at the Hollywood Bowl with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra before an October European tour which will include concerts in France, Germany, Switzerland, Romania, Serbia and the UK.

Eight weeks after its release, the band's current CD, "Hey Eugene!", was certified gold in France. The album debuted at number 30 on the Billboard 200 American chart and hit number two on the jazz charts.

"We're kind of like musical archaeologists, bringing melodies and rhythms from different parts of the world together to create something which is modern," Lauderdale says in a press release. "It's like an urban musical travelogue."

Although Pink Martini is an American band, it spends a lot of time in Turkey, Lebanon and other places where, in Lauderdale's words, it seizes the opportunity "to demonstrate that Americans are indeed serious about engaging in a dialogue with the rest of the world."

Typical of what the 11-piece band does was the sold-out concerts it performed last month with the renowned San Francisco Symphony under the direction of conductor James Gaffigan.

Pink Martini and the orchestra soared through two hours of song, transporting the audience from a smoky Paris nightclub to a Brazilian samba parade.

"Hey Eugene!" is a song by Pink Martini lead singer China Forbes about a girl who meets a boy at a party; he asks for her number but never calls.

The song is a favorite at shows and testifies to the band's ability to mix pop lyrics with strong ideas and deceptively sophisticated arrangements. The album also includes "Tempo Perdido," a sad 1934 samba on which the band is joined by the Jefferson High School Gospel Choir, and "Bukra wba-do," their first attempt to sing in Arabic.

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