"Pink Martini is like a romantic Hollywood musical of the 1940s or 50s, but with a global perspective which is modern," says founder and artistic director Thomas M. Lauderdale. "We bring melodies and rhythms from different parts of the world together to create something which is new and beautiful." The Portland, Oregon-based 'little orchestra' was founded in 1994 by Lauderdale, a Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist, to play political fundraisers for progressive causes such as civil rights, the environment, affordable housing and public broadcasting. In the years following, Pink Martini grew from four musicians to its current twelve, and has gone on to perform its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Canada and the United States.
Lauderdale met China Forbes, Pink Martini's "diva next door" lead vocalist, when the pair was at Harvard. He was studying history and literature while she was studying painting, English literature and theatre. Late into the night in their college dormitory on the Harvard campus, Forbes would sing Verdi and Puccini arias while Lauderdale accompanied her on piano and their creative collaboration blossomed. Three years later, Lauderdale called Forbes who was living in New York City, where she'd been writing songs and playing guitar in her own folk-rock project, and asked her to join Pink Martini. They began to write music and lyrics together for the band, and their first song "Sympathique," or "Je ne veux pas travailler" (I don't want to work) became a huge hit in France. Pink Martini's debut album, "Sympathique," was released independently in 1997 on the band's own label Heinz Records (named after Lauderdale's dog) and quickly became an international phenomenon, garnering the group nominations for "Song of the Year" and "Best New Artist" in France's Victoires de la Musique Awards. Seven long years later the high-anticipated follow-up, "Hang on Little Tomato," was released and climbed to #1 on Amazon.com's best sellers list.