Portland's Pink Martini has elegantly eased its way to the head of the plush-carpeted lounge pack. The 12-person ensemble, anchored by founder/pianist Thomas Lauderdale and fronted by chanteuse China Forbes, recently surpassed easy-listening luminaries Martin Denny, Sergio Mendes and even Henry Mancini to land last year's LP Hey Eugene! at No. 1 on Amazon.com's lounge listings. (Since hipsters' appetite for kitsch knows no bounds, it's also done decent trade on the indie-rock circuit.) The Martinis think of their albums as musical geography tutorials, and Hey Eugene! flits from high-style old Hollywood ("Everywhere") to Russia and Italy ("Dosvedanya, Mio Bombino"), South America ("Mar Desconocido"), Japan ("Taya Tan") and Egypt ("Bukra Wba'do"), before touching down in London's West End for a languid duet between Forbes and legendary jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott on No, No Nanette standard "Tea For Two."
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Lauderdale-Forbes originals like "Ojala" and "City of Night," meanwhile, might have listeners looking over their shoulders for Sophia Loren or Audrey Hepburn. Martini's three-night Jones Hall engagement, their Houston debut, should prompt their Houston Symphony hosts to loosen those bow ties, cha-cha-cha around the rehearsal room and order their post-concert cocktails with a twist.