Fans might have worried about Portland, Ore., jazz-cabaret combo Pink Martini this year, when diva China Forbes took a year off for vocal surgery. But pianist-founder Thomas Lauderdale wouldn’t be stopped by such technicalities. Pink Martini continued to perform with Lucy Woodward, then with ex-Bay Area belter Storm Large (who will accompany the ensemble in Oakland on Sunday). The group recently released two new albums, the best-of “A Retrospective” and “1969,” a pairing with legendary Japanese chanteuse Saori Yuki, whose ’69 debut “Scat in the Dark” Lauderdale stumbled across 10 years ago in a local record shop. He spoke to us about his projects.
So finding Yuki’s record was the beginning of a fable, right? Yes. I fell in love with it. It was such a summer album, very otherworldly, like sinking into a gigantic easy chair. The melodies were simple and beautiful, and it was simultaneously hopeful and yet there was a melancholy to it. So we covered one of its songs, “Taya Tan,” then Saori Yuki found out about it and came onstage with us to sing it in Japan last year, and then we recorded “White Christmas” with her in Japanese (for the band’s holiday disc “Joy To The World”), after careful negotiations with the Irving Berlin estate. He fought in World War II, and he forbade that song from being sung in Japanese in this lifetime.
But you then brought Yuki to Portland this year for the Japanese-earthquake benefit single “Yuuzuki.” How did it become an entire album? After “White Christmas,” EMI Japan asked if we would consider helping produce her next record, so I jumped on it. And what was wild was, it coincided with the time China had lost her voice. So we recorded a whole album in Portland in a couple of months, and the theme is music from 1969 from around the world, which is the year she got her start.
How is China doing? She’s had the vocal surgery and she sounds great. She’s in vocal lessons right now, she’s recovering, and she just played with us at a party in Portland. She’s also going to be playing with us up in Seattle with the Seattle Symphony in early December, and probably on New Year’s Eve in Los Angeles. Fortunately, surgeries like hers are done much more regularly now, so there wasn’t really the danger of a Julie Andrews catastrophe.
And Storm is nicely filling the bill? She’s really grown into the role, and it’s been absolutely spectacular. Prior to joining the band, she’d never sung in a foreign language — now she sings in eight!
IF YOU GO
With guest vocalist Storm Large
Where: Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $43.50 to $80
Contact: (800) 745-3000, www.ticketmaster.com