Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pink Martini with the Colorado Symphony

Kate was the first to introduce me to Pink Martini, and after a great appearance at the Boulder Theater a couple years ago, we've seen them virtually every time they've been in town since. We finally got a chance to see them perform with the Colorado Symphony this month, and it was stellar. Pink Martini is a "mini-orchestra" that normally tours with 10-12 members, performing elaborate arrangements of tunes from old movies and some outstanding original compositions. The Cuban influence is the most outspoken in my rhythmic opinion, but the variety of styles present (not to mention the variety of spoken languages) is mind-boggling. I just plain love this band.

The show was at Boettcher Concert Hall (whose curvy walls I have only been inside a handful of times since the obligatory elementary school field trips of my youth), and the sound was rather impressive. We sat directly above and behind the wonderfully flamboyant and insanely talented pianist Thomas Lauderdale, whose hands were usually hidden from our view on the keys (that is, when they weren't up in the air during a dramatic gesture). Fortunately I could see inside the piano from my perch, and the way the hammers were pounding away on the strings I wouldn't have been surprised if he turned around and had a couple of extra arms. Hearing the pipes on China Forbes always leaves me speechless, and holy freakin' hell, they have three percussionists, and they all ROCK. They have so many sweet percussion toys, but I found a new favorite to drool over that night: machine castanets. They are a pair of castanets mounted to a base so you can hammer on them with your fingers, and they made quite the slick addition to the conga setup (hint hint, Mark). I believe the trombonist was absent from their last trip here, which was unfortunate, because he is crazy talented. He played an amazingly intricate piece with the symphony that was all over the place. Really amazing player.

Having a symphony backing up the band was quite the experience as well, though I didn't feel they were utilized to the fullest extent. They were only used as occasional accents for several songs, and they even sat out completely on a couple. (The vibes in particular could have been featured more often, in my opinion.) The difference in volume level when the symphony was full blast vs. them sitting out was a tad jarring too, though I suppose this couldn't be avoided. The conductor even provided a bit of comic relief during Thomas' unique rendition of Rhapsody in Blue--after the intermission, the drummer apparently forgot to release the switch on his snare, and it was vibrating horribly to the bass notes of the piano. The conductor went to go save the day during a piano solo, and he couldn't figure out how to to fix it! He gave up to get back to his duties, then went back for another attempt on the next solo. After a few nervous glances to the percussion section, he finally figured it out. Containing my laughter was almost too much for me... this guy is setting the tempo for an entire symphony, and he looks like he's never seen a snare drum in his life! But anyway, the quiet humor was welcome and it didn't kill the piece too badly (for me, at least). Definitely not something you see at the symphony every day!

So to sum up, the performance was great, conductors can be hilarious, and Mark needs to buy some machine castanets. I was also exceedingly happy to be joined in attendance by my favorite sister, my favorite brother-in-law, and my favorite girlfriend. Can't beat that!

Next up: Flight of the Conchords

-Jon

1 comment:

Beth said...

I didn't even see this until now - great recap. I LOVED it so much I can't even tell you. China's voice - WOW. It was an amazing night. Love, your favorite sister. :D