By Khalida Sarwari
Pink Martini fans can thank Thomas Lauderdale’s intuition for the birth of his musical group; it’s what led him to form his wildly successful band 23 years ago when he was faced with a fork-in-the-road moment as a politician-in-training and ultimately decided to use music rather than rhetoric to bring folks of different persuasions together.
“I’ve never had a plan to follow; I just sort of follow my gut instinct from moment to moment, and so far that’s served me all right,” Lauderdale said in a phone interview from his home in Portland.
One could argue that it has served him more than all right; 10 successful studio albums and countless sold-out concerts throughout the world are accomplishments that speak for themselves. Lauderdale, who serves as Pink Martini’s bandleader and pianist, credits the caliber of his fellow musicians and their creative output for his group’s longevity and success.
“The songs are beautiful and accessible and hopeful and uplifting,” he said. “It’s old-fashioned in the sense that there’s a certain style and grace that you don’t find in pop culture these days, and I think that’s refreshing.”
The band will be in Saratoga for a concert at the Mountain Winery on Aug. 24, where it’ll perform a repertoire that includes tracks from its new album, “Je dis oui!” as well as classics such as “Amado mio” and “Brazil.”
Those who have yet to hear the new album, released late last year, are in for a multilingual treat; there’s something there for everyone: songs in eight languages–French, Farsi, Arabic, Armenian, Portuguese, Turkish, Xhosa and English–in styles that range from jazz to classical to old-fashioned pop and Latin. Lauderdale describes his band’s unique style as, “‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s meets the United Nations.”
The band will break out its signature concert-ending conga line at the Mountain Winery.
“California is our second favorite state” after Oregon, said Lauderdale. “California has just been great, because it doesn’t take much to get people out of their seats and into a conga line.”
And now, more than ever, is when people should be forming conga lines, according to the bandleader.
“The idea, when I first started the band, was to play at political gatherings, and the hope was to appeal to liberals and conservatives and people of different backgrounds,” he said. “The idea of togetherness and the conga line where people who normally would never be standing together in the same room…I think it’s especially a poignant time for that.”
Later this year, the group will be collaborating with the Oregon Ballet Theatre and the Oregon Symphony. In January, it’s scheduled to perform at a music festival in Abu Dhabi. Lauderdale said they were received warmly on their recent trip to Lebanon.
“It was really fantastic, actually,” he said. “I think that we do attempt to sing songs in Arabic, which is a really, really tough language, but I think we’re probably one of the few American bands that attempt that, and I think that’s meaningful at this time.”
Pink Martini will perform at Saratoga’s Mountain Winery, 14831 Pierce Road, on Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m. The concert features the band’s primary vocalist, China Forbes.