PINK MAR­TINI Joy to the World (Heinz Records)

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Tempos -

Port­land-based Pink Mar­tini is sui generis, a vo­calin­stru­men­tal en­sem­ble that ap­plies top-drawer mu­si­cal val­ues to rein­ter­pre­ta­tions of mostly mid­cen­tury pop and lounge clas­sics, pre­sented in ar­range­ments that range from merely imag­i­na­tive to down­right as­ton­ish­ing. The group’s le­gion of fans ex­er­cise con­sid­er­able pa­tience an­tic­i­pat­ing the ap­pear­ance of its CDs, but it’s al­ways worth the wait — and now, sud­denly, it’s Christ­mas! (Hanukkah has just come and gone, and the disc in­cludes some beau­ti­ful songs in He­brew and Ladino.) Some of the fare looks fa­mil­iar, but noth­ing is re­ally fa­mil­iar in Pink Mar­tini-land. The group is “multi-culti” to the core, so “We Three Kings” be­comes a jazz bal­lad with an un­der­pin­ning of conga drums, “White Christ­mas” has one go-round in English and an­other in Ja­panese (with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing shift in ex­pres­sive sen­si­bil­ity), and “Silent Night” gets gut­tural in Ara­bic. I never ex­pected to en­counter Verdi’s La Forza del Destino ap­proached as a pop stan­dard, but hav­ing heard Pink Mar­tini’s ar­range­ment of the aria “La vergine degli an­geli” in a deep-voiced in­ter­pre­ta­tion by lead singer China Forbes, I can’t imag­ine what took so long. A newly com­posed piece by Forbes and Thomas M. Laud­erdale — “A Snow­globe Christ­mas” — is part Hawai­ian, part coun­try western, and all slide gui­tar. Pink Mar­tini’s clos­ing num­ber, an ar­range­ment of “Auld Lang Syne” that ranges through three lan­guages, es­ca­lates into a fren­zied car­ni­val cel­e­bra­tion. — James M. Keller

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