ink Martini, the elegant throwback ensemble from Portland, Ore., guided a journey through Hollywood’s vision of a Latin past that was consistently full of charm and giddiness. Recalling an era when anything imported from south of the border required refinement to attract U.S. auds – specifically the ’30s and 40s – the 14-member band treats the material as artistically deserving on its own; their own material, with lyrics that bear the innocence of 60-70 years ago yet contain modern concerns, stands nicely alongside the vintage works. No winks or nods necessary.
Supporting their recent release “Hey Eugene,” a song about a boy PM’s lead singer China Forbes meets at a party who never calls, Pink Martini’s already enticing blend of strings, brass and Thomas Lauderdale’s overtly romantic piano style received a sultry enhancement from the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Pink Martini has done what no band was able to do during the lounge revival a decade ago: Reduce the kitsch factor and enhance the artistry. For every hipster who picked up a copy of an Esquivel CD in the 1990s, this was a concert to demonstrate how layered symphonic pop works can be played live.
Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, which has been auditioning conductors all summer, may well have found a winner in Thomas Wilkins. He is an informed and congenial speaker, he brought out the playfulness in the works, which included a Carmen Miranda Fantasy, and he provided the needed briskness that give the best Bowl programs their heft. For the Hollywood Bowl show, PM was joined was Carol Channing on “Razzle Dazzle” and the 90-year-old French crooner Henri Salvador for Syracuse. The singers proffered a duet on “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Collectively, they displayed the heartwarming nature of classic black-n-white bigscreen entertainment.