Few bands have a sound that’s as inherently sunny and summery as Pink Martini, the self-described “little orchestra” from Portland, so hitting up band creator, pianist and stone-cold music historian (as you’ll see below) Thomas Lauderdale (pictured, in gray suit and bowtie) for his perfect summer playlist is not only fitting, it’s really kind of meta.
In anticipation of Pink Martini’s Central Park SummerStage performance on Sunday, cue up Lauderdale’s excellent picks -- which are as genre-defying as the band itself, and include a song from another -- fairly legendary -- summer-in-Central Park concert.
The free show takes place July 17 at 7 p.m. on Central Park's main stage. (While the band's vocalist, China Forbes, pictured in pink above, is on forced hiatus for vocal-chord surgery, guest vocalists Storm Large, Lucy Woodward and Ari Shapiro will join Pink Martini.)
"Everybody’s Talkin’” by Harry Nilsson
From the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack. The ultimate song for driving in a convertible with eyes full of sun.
"Ma Jolie Petite Fleur" by Henri Salvador
The French Nat "King" Cole.
"You Are My Sunshine" by Ray Charles
The soundtrack of my childhood consisted of Ray Conniff, Ray Charles, The New Christy Minstrels, Roger Miller, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. Of those, this is my favorite summer song.
"Silent Night" by Barbra Streisand
Sung in Central Park in the summer of 1968.
"Feelin’ Good" by Nina Simone
Nina Simone recorded this song from the musical "The Roar of the Greasepaint -– the Smell of the Crowd" by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse … these might be the best lyrics in English about summer I can think of:
"Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Breeze driftin’ on by you know how I feel …
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feelin' good."
"God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys
"Summertime" by the Zombies
I love Colin Blunstone's version of this aria from the 1935 opera Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin.
"Today" by The New Christy Minstrels
"Walk On The Wild Side" by Lou Reed
I can only aspire to be as cool as this song.
"Eden's Island" by eden ahbez
Known mostly as the author of the Nat "King" Cole hit "Nature Boy," eden ahbez lived with his wife and his son outdoors under the second "L" of the Hollywood sign in Los Angeles. In 1960, he recorded one of my favorite albums of all time, Eden's Island.
"Dream a Little Dream of Me" by Mama Cass
"Come Sunday" by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra Featuring Mahalia Jackson
Jackson recorded this as part of Ellington's Black Brown and Beige suite on June 27, 1958 in Los Angeles -- you can feel the sun in this recording.
"On Broadway" by Jimmy Scott
Scott, Billie Holiday's favorite singer, recorded this in 1969 for another of my favorite albums of all time, The Source.
"Samba Saravah" by Pierre Barouh
From composer Francis Lai's music for the film Un Homme et une Femme (A Man and a Woman). A perfect summertime samba -- and it's in French!
"Solea" by Miles Davis
From Sketches of Spain, composed by Gil Evans, with Miles Davis on trumpet.