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Stirred up Pink Martini creates a cocktail of different sounds

Pink Martini's philosophy is to make the best out of things, and the 10-piece outfit's latest album gives a taste of its sweet, humorous attitude. A vintage ketchup ad inspired the album's title song, "Hang on Little Tomato." And the name of the band's independent label, which released the disc? Heinz Records, of course.

Calling Pink Martini a cocktail band seems obvious. But the group, which comes to the Performing Arts Center at Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall on Saturday night, is delightfully elusive when it comes to categorization. Every song is skillfully and lovingly rendered, and styles they deliver are widely varied.

"When we perform, we introduce each song -- and what language it will be sung in, which may include Portuguese, Japanese, English, Italian or Croatian," says bandleader Thomas Lauderdale. "We explain what it is about, so there is no mystery."

The ability to play so many genres so well comes from the fact that the band members have vastly differing backgrounds.

"Our inspiration and training comes from everywhere: pop, jazz, Afro-Cuban, symphonic," says the classically trained Lauderdale. "Because we are all over the map, we can make very diverse music."

Lauderdale, who plays piano, formed the band in 1994 in response to not liking bands he was hearing at political functions. He was planning to go into politics until then, but found another calling.

"I created a band that was more fabulous, a band that I would want to go see," he says. Other instruments in the lineup include trumpet, trombone, violin, cello, congas, bongos and vibraphone.

Pink Martini's success has bloomed rapidly: They have played all over the world, had their music featured in films and television shows, been nominated for an array of awards and sold plenty of albums, too.

An acceptance of reality leads to the band's philosophy of enjoying life.

"There is so much to cry about, but so much to laugh about," Lauderdale says. "In that sense, we do find humor despite the sadness of everyday life. Also, our music is from around the world. It's an adventure."

Being suited to play in environments that range from outdoor stadium to classical music hall to a party, the band's possibilities and potential are unlimited, says their boss.

"We have so much to explore. And as long as the music is nice, there should be no rules -- just to create beautiful sounds."

A consistently tender attitude seems to carry the band -- and its leader's ability to keep the ship sailing. Lauderdale acknowledges the inherent challenges of helming such a large group, like deciding on repertoire, orchestrating the songs and traveling on the road.

The collaboration and co-operation achieved are partly the result of geography, he says. "Because we are all from Oregon, we are all nice."

PREVIEW

WHO: Pink Martini

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: The Performing Arts Center at Rockwell Hall, Buffalo State College, 1300 Elmwood Ave.

TICKETS: $28 to $30

INFO: 878-3005 or www.buffalostate.edu/pac

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