Pink Martini Splendor In The Grass

The rise of this offbeat 12-piece "little orchestra" from Portland to serious international success has been a little surprising, given their wilful eclecticism. They jump promiscuously from jazz to cabaret to pop to world music, and this fourth album is no exception. Songs are sung in English, Neapolitan, Italian, French and Spanish, with a 90-year-old Mexican ranchera singer (Chavela Vargas) guesting on highlight track "Piensa En Mi." The title number exemplifies both Pink Martini's ambitiousness and their flaws. It has a film score meets classical sound, with a melody inspired by Lalo Schifrin, featuring an excerpt of a Tchaikovsky piano concerto. The 14-piece Harvey Rosencrantz Orchestra, plus a horn section, imparts a widescreen sound, although the guitar work of Courtney Taylor-Taylor (Dandy Warhols) is scarcely audible, and the piece is marred by sentimental lyrics and rather bland vocals from China Forbes. Simpler tracks work better, as with jaunty jazz romp "Ohayoo Ohio," the Left Bank cabaret vibe of "Ou est Ma Tete" and tender love song "Sunday Table." The lowlight is a schmaltz-filled, bilingual version of Joe Raposo's "Sing," featuring Emilio Delgado of Sesame Street (Luis) fame. (Audiogram)