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Pink Martini: Hey Eugene!

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Several years ago, I went to a Pink Martini concert in Eugene, Oregon. When they played a song, written by singer China Forbes, called "Hey Eugene," we all felt like it was a tribute to us. Then, when this amazing ensemble put out their second album, that song wasn't included. "How special we are," I thought. "They only played that song for

us

." Wrong. Turns out Forbes wrote the song about a lost love, not the mossy university town, and it's the title track for their new album, in stores now.

You might think that Portland-based Pink Martini, led by Forbes on vocals and Thomas Lauderdale on piano, brings back the big-band era because they crowd the stage and studio with 12 players, sometimes more. And you'd be right, but you'd miss the richness of the Pink Martini sound. They're not just dusting off old Duke Ellington chestnuts. Instead, they're reinventing forgotten songs, and injecting all manner of musical styles into each tune.

Hey Eugene!

is no different. "We like to perform and record songs of the past when we feel we have something new to say about them," says Lauderdale in the band's press materials. You might be listening to a song written 50 years ago, but you're hearing a young band, overloaded with talent and a tendency toward musical perfectionism, take it away. From quiet lullabies to rousing, sexy dance numbers, it's easy to listen to this CD three times over in one sitting. You may not even notice you've done so.

Never mind that I bought their first album,

Sympathique

, just because my grandmother was in a photo on the jacket cover. Once I actually began listening to their music, I was hooked, and have been since.

Hey Eugene!

is a worthy addition to any jazz lover's collection.

--Shea Andersen