A Second Sip of Pink Martini

After Successful Debut, Portland Band Takes its Time on Next CD

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Listen: Bandleader Thomas Lauderdale (first voice) and bassist Phil Baker discuss Pink Martini's sophomore CD with NPR's Ari Shapiro. (Contains graphic language.)

Listen: Lauderdale, on music, life, and his political aspirations.

Listen: Lead singer China Forbes discusses the different experiences of recording the Pink Martini's first and second CDs.

Listen: Percussionist Doug Smith, on the frustration -- and rewards -- of recording the second album.

Thomas Lauderdale

Pink Martini bandleader Thomas Lauderdale George Calvo hide caption

itoggle caption George Calvo

Songs from Sympathique, Pink Martini's debut album, have been featured in car commercials, club mixes and TV shows. hide caption

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Pink Martini's first album, Sympathique, has been selling steadily, racking up a respectable 600,000 sales in the five years since its release. Not bad for a CD with no record-label support. The Portland, Ore., band's music — which might be described as European lounge jazz — has been featured in car commercials, television shows (The Sopranos, The West Wing) and films (Nurse Betty, and Josie and The Pussycats).

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, the band created Sympathique with almost nothing at stake. Now there's much anticipation from fans — and the band's 10 members — about Pink Martini's second album, which has been over two years (and counting) in the making. The pressure is on bandleader Thomas Lauderdale and the rest of Pink Martini to avoid the "sophomore curse" that many successful debut musicians, novelists and other artists often face with their follow-up efforts.

"There are a lot of pressures coming from all sides," Lauderdale says.

Lauderdale is a cum laude Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist who occasionally plays with the Oregon Symphony. Shapiro says the bandleader's charisma may help explain why Pink Martini's members are willing to put up with the lengthy recording process.

"It's not too many times you're involved with an eccentric genius in your life," says trombonist Robert Taylor. "And when that comes along you fasten your seatbelt and just go along for the ride."

Pink Martini is not Lauderdale's sole focus. He's been considering a run for mayor of Portland, but he promises to finish the new album first. "You can have a fabulous band living in this beautiful town, but if the town doesn't remain beautiful, then it's no fun having a fabulous band in a terrible town," Lauderdale says.

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