An impeccably crafted blend of intimacy and exuberance.
Michael Quinn 2009-10-30
Album number four from the always delectable Portland, Oregon-based Pink Martini is, as you would expect, an impeccably crafted blend of intimacy and exuberance.
Cheeky, chic, sassy, clever and sexy in equal measure, it shows the baker’s dozen-strong outfit maturing with a sure-footed, lightly worn elegance. Marrying American irreverence with European sophistication, Splendor in the Grass offers up nine new tracks and four covers in a package that triumphantly sounds like Dean Martin in World Music mode.
Inking in the distinctively retro signature sound, it transports the salon lounge into freewheeling global musical lebensraum with songs in five languages, all dispensed with a winningly understated savoir faire. The title track sounds like Mama Cass covering Walt Whitman and Wordsworth with the soaring string melody from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No.1 adding epic emotion to the miniature marvel.
There’s more surprising inventiveness in the sprightly leave-taking of And Then You’re Gone and its deliciously insouciant Big Band riposte, But Now I’m Back, both beguilingly built on the opening themes of Schubert’s F-minor Fantasy for four-hand piano to dreamily playful effect.
Sung in Neapolitan, Ninna Nanna is a haunting lullaby for a sleeping sailor who languidly ‘dreams in the blue’. Europe looms large elsewhere, with Oú est ma tête a witty and wistful French cha cha seductively delivered by China Forbes, and Agustin Lara classic Piensa en mi a lachrymose tribute to painter Frida Kahlo boasting a broken-voiced vocal from ex-lover and Mexican ranchera legend Chavela Vargas.
Guitarist Dan Faehnle’s jazzy instrumental Ohayoo Ohio (‘Hello Ohio’) is a love song of altogether lighter intent, the sitar-dotted cover of Rafaella Carrà’s Tuca tuca sashays with flirtatious knowingness, and New Amsterdam, with its loosely threaded jumble and sweet jangle of brass and youth choir, hymns New York with consummate aplomb.
Complete with barbershop quartet, joking brass, percussion and piano, Bitty Boppy Betty swings in every conceivable direction to sublimely comic effect while the bi-lingual take on Sing, originally written for Sesame Street and recorded by The Carpenters, counterpoints the sultry Latin croon of the programme’s Emilio Delgado (aka Luis) with a light-as-air children’s choir.
Pink Martini? Make mine a double!