Of the many Christmas-themed concerts playing in Santa Barbara this month, Pink Martini’s performance at the Arlington Theatre on December 8 is gearing up to be one of the most eclectic. The latest show in the UCSB Arts & Lectures series, the Portland-based “mini-orchestra” led by pianist Thomas Lauderdale and fronted onstage by vocalist China Forbes will deliver a setlist of multilingual Christmas songs alongside non-holiday tunes from the band’s back catalogue. It will also feature numbers showcasing the talents of new vocalists Edna Vazquez and Jimmie Herrod.
According to a press release, Ms. Vazquez and Mr. Herrod joined Pink Martini as featured guest singers in late 2017. In October of this year the two respectively appeared on the band’s EPs “Besame Mucho” and “Tomorrow.” Calling her membership in Pink Martini “another level in my career,” Ms. Vazquez spoke joyfully about her two years in the band thus far. While Mr. Lauderdale and Ms. Forbes have performed together in the band for well over two decades, Ms. Vazquez never experienced any difficulty being one of the newcomers. This she attributed to the professionalism of Pink Martini’s long-standing members, who she referred to as “role models.”
“They’re super kind and professional human beings… It wasn’t hard at all,” she recalled.
Originally from Mexico, Ms. Vazquez moved to Pink Martini’s home base of Portland, OR, when she was seventeen. One day when Ms. Vazquez was playing a gig at Portland record store “Everyday Music,” Mr. Lauderdale was in the audience and gave her the complete discography of Pink Martini after the show. Two years later when she was attending the 2017 Latin Grammys, Mr. Lauderdale phoned her and asked if she wanted to sing songs with his band.
“I thought that was a great moment in my career,” Ms. Vazquez said. “I went for it and the rest is history.”
When Pink Martini takes the Arlington Theatre stage this Sunday, lead vocal duties will be swapped between Ms. Forbes, co-frontwoman Storm Large, Mr. Herrod, and Ms Vazquez. The two newest members will handle lead vocals on the songs from their respective Pink Martini EPs. Though she said all of the songs on “Besame Mucho” are favorites, Ms. Vazquez named the album’s single “Sola Soy” and the title track as particularly significant ones. The former one of her own originals, the signer described it as a song about “being vulnerable enough to say your biggest fears.” As for the latter, a cover of the Mexican song written by Consuelo Velazquez, it reminds her to live in the moment.
“It takes me into the now, just to enjoy yourself at this moment because it could be your last,” she said.
In addition to the Spanish she will sing during her numbers, Ms. Vazquez will also perform in at least five other languages as she provides background vocals to the show’s holiday songs. These include a version of the New Years classic “Auld Lang Zyne” sung in Arabic, English, and French, and the Lebanese Christmas song “Talj Talj.”
Though she doesn’t know how to speak some of these languages, the singer doesn’t find it difficult to discover emotion within the songs on a gut level. Still, the singers do get translated lyric sheets when learning foreign songs, which Ms. Vazquez says heightens the emotional connection between her and the material. This happened when she saw the translated words of Romanian love song “Pana Cand Nu Te Iubeam.”
“When I saw the lyrics in English, I was thrilled,” she said.
This diversity of languages in Pink Martini’s music is what the singer especially enjoys about her new band, as it makes their songs accessible to a very wide audience.
“I just love Pink Martini because we include a huge array of languages that make everyone feel included,” she said.
Tickets for Pink Martini’s December 8 concert can be purchased online at artsandlectures.ucsb.edu and cost between $43.50 and $153.50 for the general public. UCSB students with current student IDs can purchase tickets for $23.50. The show will begin at 7:00 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre, lactated at 1317 State St.