Different voices, cameos dot Portland orchestra's new CD

Bandleader and pianist Thomas Lauderdale says that Pink Martini's newest album, 'Splendor in the Grass,' to be released Tuesday, Oct. 27, came together quickly - 'almost a first-take thing,' he says.

And Lauderdale says 'Splendor in the Grass' could end up being right there with 'Sympathique,' the Portland orchestra's debut album, as far as quality of music.

'I love it. I literally cannot stop listening to this album,' Lauderdale says. 'I turn up the stereo and drive … it's a little embarrassing.'

True to its diverse, eclectic roots, Pink Martini put out the 14-song album, featuring nine originals, cuts in five different languages (English, Neapolitan, Italian, French, Spanish) and several cameos.

Ari Shapiro, National Public Radio's justice correspondent, sings 'But Now I'm Back.' Lauderdale says he and Shapiro, who grew up in Portland, became friends during the recording of Pink Martini's second album several years ago. 'But Now I'm Back' serves as a companion song to 'And Then You're Gone.'

Famed ranchera singer Chavela Vargas chimes in with 'Piensa en mi.'

The Tsunami Singers of the Pacific Youth Choir help back lead singer China Forbes and multiple instruments in the New York ballad, 'New Amsterdam.'

Pink Martini covers 'Sing,' of Sesame Street and The Carpenters fame, and Emilio Delgado, 'Luis' from Sesame Street, sings a bilingual duet with Forbes, backed by the Royal Blues of Grant High School and staff from Mayor Sam Adams' office. Ironic that some of Adams' staff was involved, considering Lauderdale's criticism of Adams during his recent sex scandal.

Courtney Taylor-Taylor of the Dandy Warhols plays electric guitar on the title cut, 'Splendor in the Grass,' a song co-written by Lauderdale and longtime cohort/muse Alex Marashian. Written for his daughters Sadie and Lulu in Berlin, Marashian also penned 'Bitty Boppy Betty,' a song accompanied by a barbershop quartet.

Lauderdale leaned on Marashian in producing the album, while their longtime sidekick Forbes gave birth to her boy, Cameron. Forbes still sings on 10 of the songs, but Lauderdale says his collaboration with Marashian - an ex-college classmate of his and Forbes' - worked well.

'I wanted a buddy. It's no fun working on something by yourself,' he says. 'I wanted a different voice to draw inspiration from and, going outside the band to a friend who lives in Berlin was the right choice.'

Marashian had directed the band's video 'Sympathique,' and is better known for his work in publishing magazines.

A couple people have suggested to Lauderdale that Pink Martini's newest release is comforting music - upbeat, hopeful. Lauderdale's reaction: 'Wow, I never thought of it that way. Comforting sounds intriguing to me. It's such a weird time in America, comforting is really good.'

Pink Martini hosts an album release party at 8:30 p.m., Monday, Oct. 26, at the Crystal Ballroom. The album hits stores the next day.

The band also holds a release concert in New York, before heading to Europe for two weeks and stops in London, Paris, Istanbul, Bucharest and other cities.

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