SFJAZZ.org | 5 Things to Know About Pink Martini

On The Corner Masthead


November 22 2022 | by Rusty Aceves

Pink Martini

Pink Martini brings its rollicking cross-genre mix of classical, jazz, and old-fashioned pop back to SFJAZZ for their run of holiday time concerts from 12/13–18. To learn more about the group, here are five things you should know.

  1. Their lively mix of musical styles and virtuosic playing have made them stars. Formed in 1994 by pianist Thomas Lauderdale in Portland, Oregon, the group has built a monstrous fan base with its rollicking cross-genre mix of classical, jazz, and old-fashioned pop. Before forming the band, Lauderdale had political ambitions, and was dismayed by the inappropriately loud and potentially off-putting nature of the music he heard at fundraisers and public events around his hometown. He decided to focus on an ensemble that could provide music for events that supported causes near and dear to his heart, including affordable housing, civil rights, education, public library funding, and park funding. He enlisted his former Harvard classmate China Forbes, a powerhouse vocalist and songwriter, to join him in this noble endeavor, and the rest, as they say, is history.
  2. They’ve sold over 3 million records. Out of the gate, the band was a sensation. The first song Lauderdale and Forbes wrote together, “Sympathique” (Je ne veus pas travailler), was released as a single and became a sensation in France, nominated for Song of the Year at the 2000 Victoires de la Musique awards — the French equivalent of the GRAMMY awards. Since the first full-length album, 1997’s Sympathique, the band has released 10 wildly diverse and eclectic albums on their own Heinz Records (named for Lauderdale’s mixed breed dog). The releases have consistently charted, with 2007’s Hey Eugene, 2009’s Splendor in the Grass, and 2010’s Joy to the World all breaking the Top 10 in various countries around the world.
  3. They’ve performed in a hugely diverse range of settings. From their inception, the band was intended to match harmoniously in all sorts of venues and platforms. Beyond the majority of the world’s great classical and pop concert halls, they’ve been at home at the Cannes Film Festival, the grand opening of the remodeled Museum of Modern Art in NYC, the Governor’s Ball at the 2008 Academy Awards, and in appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, CBS Sunday Morning, Later with Jools Holland, and NPR’s Toast of the Nation. They’ve even done a video performance for the crew of the International Space Station.
  4. They are masters of collaboration. Wide diversity of musical influences and members virtuosic enough to tackle anything with total command means the sky’s the limit in terms of potential collaborators, and Pink Martini have embraced that potential more than any other working band. A truncated list of artists the band has worked with includes: Michael Feinstein, Phyllis Diller, Jimmy Scott, Meow Meow, Wayne Newton, Mamie Van Doren, Rufus Wainwright, the Von Trapps, Michel Legrand, Dame Edna, The Chieftains, the original cast of Sesame Street, Chavela Vargas, and Carol Channing.
  5. They have a distinguished history at SFJAZZ. The band chose SFJAZZ as the place to kick off their tour to celebrate the release of their 2016 album Je dis oui! (I Say Yes!), making their Miner Auditorium debut on November 27, 2016 during our 2016-17 Season. Their returns to SFJAZZ have been a regular occurrence, including a performance in December 2017, an impressive run of eight sold-out shows in December 2019 as part of the shortened 2019-20 Season, and a return in December 2021 after the canceled 2020–2021 Season.

           Pink Martini performing "Lilly" at SFJAZZ — December 2019

Originally posted November 30, 2020

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