Low-graphic news index |
Friday, August 17, 2012 - Page updated at 11:00 a.m.
Pink Martini gets a big lift from clarinetist Norman Leyden
By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer
Concert Review |
It's not every day that a 94-year-old clarinetist propels a little cocktail orchestra into a zany big-band stratosphere.
That's what happened Wednesday night at the Woodland Park Zoo concerts when Norman Leyden, former pops-program director for the Seattle Symphony and Oregon Symphony, let loose on Pink Martini's instrumental jam-session, "The Flying Squirrel." Leyden's trills, glides and out-of-left-field excerpts from "Ride of the Valkyries" had Pink Martini leader Thomas Lauderdale grinning like a kid at his keyboard.
Singer China Forbes, after another number, declared "I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I get to sing with Norman."
Leyden, a special guest on the program, got a standing ovation the minute he came on stage. (Pink Martini fans know him from his collaboration with the band on their 2004 album, "Hang On Little Tomato"). But there was plenty more to savor about the concert.
Musical selections covered the full gamut of the band's career, from the title tune of its debut album, "Sympathique," to a song from the latest release, "1969" (a collaboration with Japanese pop singer Saori Yuki).
Forbes, clad in a gown that from some angles looked like a Union Jack taking a psychedelic turn, shared banter duties with Lauderdale and almost always had an anecdote about the songs she was singing. One concerned the band being sued for adapting the lyrics for "Sympathique" from some verses by Guillaume Apollinaire they'd assumed were in the public domain. Not so. But the heirs were nice about it, asking for autographs and saying Apollinaire would have loved the tune.
Lauderdale's song-info contributions included one on the grisly twists in a Japanese film from which "Song of the Black Lizard" was taken.
Perfect weather, dancing kids and a picnic atmosphere made a festive, if sometimes chattery backdrop to the show, as the band mixed old favorites ("Let's Never Stop Falling in Love," "Una Notte a Napoli," "Donde Estas, Yolanda?") with a handful of standards that can't be found on their records. The latter ranged from the wistful "What'll I Do?" to the campy "Uska Dara" a signature tune for Eartha Kitt.
Timothy Nishimoto's vocals were a pleasure as always (he and Forbes make a great harmonizing team), and Dan Faehnle delivered some nicely slithery guitar work, sometimes giving the band's polished sound a welcome edge.
Wednesday was the first of two sold-out nights at ZooTunes for Pink Martini.
As Forbes said, "We'll see you again tomorrow night — same place."
Get there early, if you have tickets. The meadow was packed.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © The Seattle Times Company
Low-graphic news index
Graphic-enabled home page