"We wanted to be campy. We saw Pink Martini as Breakfast at Tiffany's reincarnated, crossed with if the United Nations had a house band back in 1962." That's how Thomas Lauderdale describes the 1994 beginnings of his 12-piece orchestra Pink Martini, which will play at the Adrienne Arsht Center tonight, January 13. "Over the years, we became more earnest and less ironic."
Lauderdale began playing piano at the age of 6. "I studied classical music. I still have the same piano teacher from when I was 13," the 46-year-old says. He also grew up hearing hymns from his minister father, as well as studying reel-to-reel recordings from Ray Charles, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the soundtrack for Jesus Christ Superstar. When he moved to Portland, Oregon, as an adult, though, it was with the idea to run as the city's mayor. "I love Portland, and I would love to make the city run better."
Upon his move to Oregon, Lauderdale organized fundraisers. For one such event in 1994, he brought in the Del Rubio Triplets. "I saw them play on a Pee-wee Herman Christmas special. They were three guitarist triplets in their 70s who played in miniskirts, I brought them to play for the Rotary Club, and they needed an opener." In a pinch, Lauderdale took the stage as Pink Martini. His political career has been on hold ever since as he has grown the band. "I have a mortgage to pay, and the band is doing well. Getting adoration while traveling across the world is much nicer than creating policies under fluorescent lights."
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Ten albums into a career of international cocktail lounge music, Pink Martini has a new record, titled Je Dis Oui!, which is French for "I Say Yes." "We want to inspire people to get up and dance and provide a glittery moment of loveliness and hope."
The band's cosmopolitan flavor has garnered a fan base all over the world. This year is filled with tour dates in Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. "It's tricky now. Countries like Turkey and Lebanon are fantastic to play. We spent a lot of time there over the years, but last year we weren't able to go because of global activities. This year we're supposed to play Morocco for the first time."
Let's hope for world peace, but assuming South Florida continues to be a safe spot, Lauderdale has one major goal with Pink Martini's two local dates: "I want conga lines to be forming by the end of it."
8 p.m. Friday, January 13, at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; arshtcenter.org; 305-949-6722. Tickets cost $35 to $115 via arshtcenter.org.
8 p.m. Saturday, January, 14 at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd.,West Palm Beach; kravis.org. Tickets start at $25.