'..there's not a genre or pigeonhole anywhere that can diminish its originality and...
Chris Moss 2004-12-16
What comes to your mind when you think of a pink martini? A belle époque somewhere tropical? A kind of classy camp that is no more? Glamorous sexuality and silk gowns worn on nights of sin?
Well, drink deeply on the cocktail offered by Cuban beauty China Forbes and her 14-piece band(plus her heavenly chorus of male vocalists) and you'll be sated. Every song on this album is deliciously different. You get the swing of Afro-Cuban rhythms, the existential sadness of Parisian café tunes, some Caribbean calypso and then a Hollywood golden-era string arrangement, all of it polished to near-perfection, with the sassy wit of the 1930s and none of the shrinking self-parody of the noughties.
China sings in Spanish, Italian, French, Croatian and English, and with feeling and confidence whatever the tongue. Her sidekick Timothy Nishimotodoes a song in Japanese, with Forbes on faraway vocals. For the sultry piano bar song, "Veronique", Robert Taylor sings and plays a wistful trumpet against the tinkling keys of Thomas Lauderdale, the force behind most of Pink Martini's lyrics and scores. It's cabaret showtime throughout, delievered by a band that loves live performance.
The 1997 debut Sypathique was a worldwide smash, selling 750,000 albums, and this may well do the same. Pink Martinihail not from Havana or New York, but from Portland, Oregon, which may account for the healthy irreverence for a fixed style or scene if this is music from nowhere and everywhere, it's one of the sweeter fruits of globalisation.
The 11th song, Italian theatre and TV star Alba Clementes' "Una notte a Napoli", was a hit in 2004, with Clemente joining China and the band to do some words. It is a vivacious, playful blend of salsa and canzonetta.
The album wraps up withHeitor Villa-Lobos' "Song of the Black Swan", an instrumental duet for cello and piano. This is a sophisticated and fun album, and there's not a genre or pigeonhole anywhere that can diminish its originality and life-loving energy.