Pink Martini's new release, Hang On Little Tomato, is the kind of album that makes even the most embittered alt-weekly writer crack open that box of Adjectives Never to Use: charming, whimsical, magic.
But what are you gonna do? Since the release of Sympathique in 1997, the Portland-based 12-piece orchestra has made sentimental mush-heads out of jaded hipsters from Oregon to Orleans.
And yet there's nothing hip or cutting-edge about Pink Martini's anachronistic Euro-suave. Like its predecessor, Hang On leans heavily on halcyon Mancini-esque hooks, Latin rhythms and a grainy film noir sensibility. It's the kind of music you could see Cary Grant lotioning himself up to.
What makes Hang On so damned charming is, for one, lead vocalist China Forbes. She's superb in English, Spanish, French, Italian or Japanese.
What's smitten more listeners, though, is the thorough sense of mood. A lot of that is familiar, but the few new forays, the haunting "Kikuchiyo to mohshimasu" or the clarinet-sprayed slow Dixie of the title track, are just enough to freshen the room after dancing yourself stupid to the exceptional "Anna (el negro zumbon)."
It's all just so, so -- oh hell, it's so whimsical. There, I said it. -- Joel Smith
Love Is Blue
Love isn't always an occasion of pleasure, and it's for those times that jazz vocalist Jackie Allen released her newest CD, Love Is Blue. If you're old enough to remember the cheesy instrumental title tune from the late '60s, then put that treacly memory far out of mind. The subtle arrangements enhance Allen's rich and supple vocals on every cut. Two of the 11 titles are Allen originals, co-written with screenwriter Oryna Schiffman, including "Moon of Deception," a song that'll trash all romantic notions of moonlit nights.
For me, the highlight is her smoky version of Annie Lennox's "Pavement Cracks." Deftly navigating the boundary between jazz and rock, Allen covers the journey from resignation to anger to determination of woman with a love gone bad. And on the final cut, the standard "I'll Be Around," the simple finger-picked guitar accompaniment belies the darkness of the lyrics, turning the song into an anthem of determination -- with just a hint of stalker potential lurking in the background. It's a haunting finish to a sultry exploration of the darker landscapes of love. -- Ann M. Colford