Pink Martini. I liked them at first listen and then the more I listened, the more I liked. There for a while I listened to them quite a bit, especially when I needed a calming stress reliever. I’d always wanted to see them in concert and last night I finally had that opportunity. Pink Martini was the featured guest of the Oklahoma City Philharmonic as part of their Pops series.A few years ago I was trading out some CD’s with my sister and I ran across a group called
Even as much as I love classical music I have to admit that this was my first visit to the OKC Philharmonic’s Pops series. I doubt it will be my last. OKC’s own Philharmonic opened the show with a medley of traditional classics featuring Grieg’s Morning from Peer Gynt and then wrapping up with the William Tell Overture. I have to tell you, I’m not a fan of the William Tell, not even when JSO plays it. But they were done with it soon enough and went right into a jazz influenced program featuring selections from the musical Chicago (Sorry Jenn Jenn, no Cell Block Tango) and a really nice arrangement of Richard Rogers’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, from On Your Toes and selections from Cabaret.
So I was 40 minutes into the show and I’d already heard enough great music to justify the very reasonable ticket price of $55. The rest would be pure bonus. After a 20 minute intermission Pink Martini took the stage and opened up with their take on Bolero. Before I get into the program I guess I need to tell you folks more about Pink Martini. They’re a band consisting of a dozen or so extremely gifted musicians ranging from brass, guitar, percussion, a solitary violinist and one of clearest vocalists you’ll ever hear and a pianist, Thomas Laduderdale, that has far more talent than any one person should be given.
There’s no way to pigeon hole them into one genre but I guess the closest description might be a Latin samba band, but again, to cast them into any one specific genre is really slighting them. Think of it as Big Bad Voodoo Daddy meets Tito Puente. But rather than trying to figure them out from my inept description, pop over to Itunes or Rhapsody and give them a listen, but be warned, you’ll be hooked.
Have you ever gone to a concert and been afraid that your favorite song might not be on the program? I know that’s quite common for me. Last night I didn’t have to worry about that, well not for long. After they opened up with Bolero they went right into my two favorite songs, “Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love” and “Sympathique,” both of which feature China Forbes crystal clear vocals. If there was any disappointing portion of the performance it was only that the piano solo in Sympathique wasn’t long enough or loud enough. It’s so prevalently featured on the CD but seemed a bit diminished on stage. But trust me, that was the only disappointment and it was very minor.
I had never been a fan of “Song of the Black Lizard” until band founder Thomas Lauderdale took a few moments to give some background on the song. It seems this little ditty was featured in a 1968 Japanese cult film in which a psychotic criminal mastermind would abduct people, collect a ransom for them in the form of jewels and then proceed to kill the victim so that he could add them to his menagerie of preserved victims on a shimmering island in the middle of the Pacific. How messed up is that? Messed up? Yes! Something that sounds right up my alley? Of Course! Naturally as he was describing a song from a rather strange foreign cult movie my recent favorite Jaan Pehechaan Ho came to mind. Hmmm... if only Pink Martini could incorporate Jaan Pehechaan Ho into their repertoire?
Only two more items then I will let you folks get back to whatever it was that you were doing. In closing, I have to say that last night’s concert was magnificent and there’s no way that I can even begin to tell you how exceptionally talented these musicians are. I encourage each of you to explore the music of Pink Martini and let me know what you think. Finally, I would be somewhat remiss if I didn’t mention the tremendous job that our own OKC Philharmonic did in providing this group with terrific orchestral backing to make the music even more robust.
So… even if you’re not a jazz or samba fan I really think you all should give this band a listen. I’m sure you’ll thank me afterwards.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
Thursday, March 15, 2012
A lot of my readers probably don’t remember the show prior to Leno taking over but most of the 40 and over crowd certainly will. Jay originally had Branford Marsallis as his music director before Kevin Eubanks took over. But for Johnny the choice was Doc Severinsen. Doc was known for wearing loud and bright clothing, the kind that would make folks in Nashville green with envy. But flashy clothing was only a trademark, the true talent lied in Severinsen’s abilities as a musician, arranger and showman. He and his sometime fill in Tommy Newsome would always delight the audience by answering the challenge in an entertaining round of “Stump the Band” in which they seldom were.
All of this was years and years ago in another century. So let’s fast forward to 2012. In March of this year my Mom will celebrate her 76th birthday. Now if there’s one thing in this world that my Mom appreciates it’s certainly music. Those of you who follow this blog or know me personally can attest that I too am also quite fond of music, I guess the apple doesn’t fall from the tree in this instance. So I decided that to honor Mom’s birthday I would spring for tickets and take her to see the one and only Doc Severinsen in concert.
When I first heard that Severinsen was coming to town I thought to myself, “Wow he has to be up there in age.” He is, Doc is now 85 years of age. I also thought to myself, “Well he’s probably just the figurehead, he probably just leads the band as a conductor.” While I was right about Doc being up there in age I was definitely incorrect in my assumption that at 85 Doc might be relegated to standing out front and conducting. Doc does conduct the band, 16 pieces in all including Doc, but make no mistake, when it’s time to pick up the horn and play Doc never misses an opportunity to play one of the sweetest and cleanest trumpets in the business. I was amazed at the power and virtuosity that this man still possess at an age that would see many of us convalescing in some retirement home. The notes were loud, clean and clear. They were pure musical gold.
Doc and the band played a concert that was roughly two and a half hours with a 20 minute intermission. For those of you who remember Johnny I don’t have to tell you what the opening number was. It was of course “The Tonight Show Theme” written by Paul Anka. Now you certainly can’t blame Doc for borrowing this as his own theme. The song was played 5 nights a week, 52 weeks a year for 32 years. It’s safe to say that Doc probably knows this one by heart.
After that somewhat predictable opening number Doc went into an up tempo version of “September Song” about which he remarked, “I guess I should have told you that I was going to do a little bit different rendition of that song because as it’s sung, it’s about an older man gracefully sliding into old age and in a sense going gracefully into his final years. Well I’m certainly not going to slide gracefully into my golden years,” or something to that effect. I can’t remember his exact words but I’m sure that you get the gist.
The rest of the program consisted of classics by Cab Calloway, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman and I think there may have been a Billy Strayhorn number in the mix as well. Doc mentioned Johnny only once during the show when he played what he said had always been Johnny’s favorite song, but I didn’t catch the name. Doc even paid homage to his sometime fill-in Tommy Newsome when he played a Tommy Newsome arrangement of Stardust. I think the piece that best showcased Doc’s ability to play at age 85 was an excellent rendition of “Georgia.”
The show ended with two really strong songs, Sing, Sing, Sing and One O’clock Jump. I have to say that I really enjoyed this performance and perhaps the best part of it was to know that even at 85, people can still continue to do what they love most.