The members of Portland’s Pink Martini have covered plenty of well-known songs in their decade and a half together, like “Que Sera, Sera” on their 1997 debut, and the theme from I Dream of Jeannie in their early live shows. So they have no quarrel with popularity.
Compared with most other acts that have sold more than a million records, however, this little big band seem utterly uninterested in the realm of Top 40 pop — at least as the Top 40 has behaved since the mid ’60s or so. Pink Martini’s version of familiarity always feels faraway, or forgotten.
All the same, here on the group’s fourth studio disc, we find a version of “Sing” by the Carpenters, one of the most successful mainstream pop acts of all time. Could it be that bandleader Thomas Lauderdale has finally caved in? Hardly: Pink Martini “return the song to its roots” by having frontlady China Forbes do it as an English-Spanish duet (with the dude who played Luis on Sesame Street) — which is how Joe Raposo wrote it in the first place. Oh, and there’s also a backing choir made up of high-school kids and folks who work in the office of Portland’s mayor, Sam Adams. Quirk lives!