Pink Martini

Hey Eugene!

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It took Pink Martini a full decade -- their debut, Sympathique, came out in 1997; the follow-up, Hang on Little Tomato, was released in 2004; and now Hey Eugene! arrives in 2007 -- but they've finally perfected their particular good-time blend of cabaret pop, pre-"world music" international fare, golden-age Hollywood scores, and lounge-informed, classy jazz. It's still tempting to be wary of a group that wears its eclecticism so ostentatiously on its sleeve, but in the end nothing about the Oregon-based Pink Martini feels pretentious or mannered. While there is more than a taste of the tongue-in-cheek to China Forbes' vocals, Pink Martini, a dozen strong, never come off as precious or stylized, as did so many of the bands that came along during the '90s lounge revival and then disappeared from the planet. While on one hand they fine-tune what it is they do, Pink Martini also expand their focus on their third album. The Latin elements of the first two albums are still present, no more so than on "Tempo Perdido," a samba-rhumba written by Ataulfo Alves, originally sung by Carmen Miranda and abetted here by a high-school choir, but the group's passport has many new stamps on it. "Bukra Wba'do," originally sung by Egyptian star Abdel Halim Hafez, is PM's first foray into the world of Arabic music, and the foamy "Taya Tan" is a sweet but somewhat foreboding Japanese pop confection. "Ojala" takes the group into French chanson; "Dosvedanya Mio Bombino," obviously, leans Russian (great line: "I tried to storm the Kremlin of your heart"), but not so obviously also tilts toward various other Latinstrains from samba to son, which are touched upon elsewhere. Alternating between English (a touching, minimal "Tea for Two" with vocal jazz legend Jimmy Scott guesting; the opening, Forbes/Lauderdale-penned "Everywhere," a lush '40s-style torch song that could just as easily have been an old Judy Garland or Peggy Lee hit) and foreign-language vocals, Forbes is at ease in any situation. Bandleader/founder Thomas Lauderdale has become a masterful helmsman, guiding the core orchestra through its tricky, subtle paces. Ironically, the title track is the least interesting thing here, a slow-jam R&B bird-flip to a guy who took the singer's number and never bothered to call. Such silliness isn't becoming of the talent and originality on display all over Hey Eugene!, and they'd be wise to stick to the globe-hopping and genre-splicing in the future without resorting to downtown-styled faux coolness.

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