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Pink Martini At The Walt Disney Concert Hall

The occasion is New Year's Eve, and the hour begins with a countdown to 2009. From there, it's pure fantasy with China Forbes singing in Spanish, French, Italian and more. "Amado Mio" comes from a mid-1940s film noir with Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford and a tungsten cartel in Argentina. "Anna" comes from a 1951 Italian film about a nun who encounters two former lovers in a hospital. Imagination, especially cinematic imagination, is Pink Martini's domain, and at Disney Hall, we are so close to Hollywood.

"Sympathique" is the title song of the group's first album from 1997; "Hang on Little Tomato" is the title song of the second, "Hey Eugene" of the third. Leader Thomas Lauderdale recites the ad copy from a 1964 Life magazine that inspired the song: "'Hang on, little tomato, stay on the vine until you're fat and juicy. Then we will simmer you in bubbling secret spices and turn you into ketchup, and if you're lucky, some smart hamburger may team up with you.' So this is really a song of hope."

Pink Martini mentions that it's working on its fourth album, now out. Splendor in the Grass features NPR Justice Correspondent Ari Shapiro as a guest on vocals. For this concert, however, the guest was a professor of Arabic at Portland State University. Dr. Dirgham H. Sbait teaches the audience "Tomorrow and the Day After," an Egyptian song in Arabic, very difficult to learn quickly. But the professor is grading on a curve, saying, "You get an A+ for this." Then everyone sings along. After all, they may never have this chance again.

Credits: Live mix by Phil Edwards of Phil Edwards Recording.

Copyright 2009 WBGO

Becca Pulliam, JazzSet