More than two decades and nine albums since founder and pianist Thomas Lauderdale ignited what would become Pink Martini, the Portland-based troupe remains the world’s most audaciously imaginative pop-jazz act. The consistent keys to their wacky kingdom: globetrotting unpredictability, with Lauderdale and his cohorts serving up a multilingual smorgasbord of delights and obscurities; unexpected guest stars; and, most important, a core membership of richly gifted musicians including vocalists Storm Large and China Forbes.
So the vibrant, multi-pronged Je dis oui! can simply be considered renewed fulfillment of a longstanding guarantee. The cornerstone of the 15-track program is a charming trio of selections, all co-written by Lauderdale and performed in French, from the recent film Souvenir, starring Isabelle Huppert as a one-time Eurovision contestant attempting a comeback. The group’s world tour continues with selections sung in Farsi (the noirish “Kaj Kolah Khan,” featuring Large), Armenian, Portuguese and, new to their international phrasebook, Xhosa, for a joyous cover of the Miriam Makeba signature “Pata Pata,” sung by Forbes.
Among the guests, Rufus Wainwright serves up a tender “Blue Moon” and NPR’s dashing Ari Shapiro, a Martini regular, helps navigate the besotted ache of the Armenian classic “Ov Sirun Sirun.” Far more surprising: Chicago fashion maven Ikram Goldman, a favorite of Michelle Obama’s, swirling through the Arabic “Al Bint Al Shalabiya”; and the trailblazing activist Kathleen Saadat, a tireless advocate for women’s, gay, lesbian and civil rights, shaping a raw, sinewy “Love for Sale.”Originally Published