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All Access: Pink Martini

Bringing together the musical sensibilities of Cuban jazz, classical chamber music and film scores, 12-piece Pink Martini is playing mid-sized halls across

The band: China Forbes, vocals; Thomas Lauderdale, piano; Robert Taylor, trombone; Gavin Bondy, trumpet; Paloma Griffin, violin; Brian Davis, conga/drum/percussion; Derek Rieth, percussion; Martin Zarzar, drums; Phil Baker, bass; Timothy Nishimoto, vocals/percussion; Nick Crosa, violin; and Dan Faehnle, guitar

Bringing together the musical sensibilities of Cuban jazz, classical chamber music and film scores, 12-piece Pink Martini is playing mid-sized halls across the U.S. They’ll be taking time out for the upcoming holidays and then go back on the road until next May.
caught Pink Martini in San Francisco, where they were accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall.

Front-of-house engineer Pete Plympton

Photo: Aaron Scott

Front-of-house engineer Pete Plympton, who has been mixing for the band for the past eight years, is relying on rental gear, finding himself behind a different console every night. “The band is only on 32 channels, and with an orchestra, [taking] up to 56 channels. As for rack gear, when I have the option, I prefer TC Electronic reverbs, dbx 160s and Klark Teknik analog graphic EQs.

“The show is uniquely challenging,” Plympton continues. “Orchestras with band shell, orchestras without band shell, very live rooms designed for no sound reinforcement, very dead rooms — they can require completely different mixing techniques. It’s a real challenge and still fun. We have a great crew: Charlie Bradshaw is our tour manager, and Nathan Ostrander takes care of all backline duties.”

As the tour is also picking up house monitor engineers, Plympton is well aware of the group’s monitoring needs. “This is a very smart band; they listen to each other acoustically and have very little in the monitors,” Plympton explains. “I find that the transducers are the key; it is a fine balance between well-placed pickups and the right microphones. Our strings get Audio-Technica ATM 350s and Fishman pickups. The harp gets a Barcus Berry piano planer pickup with a condenser [mic], and the piano gets two DPA 4021s and a Helpinstill pickup.”

Martin Zarzar’s drum kit is miked with a Shure 91 (kick), a 57 (snare) and an SM81 (hi-hat, overheads), as well as a Sennheiser 604 (toms). Mics for Robert Taylor (trombone) and Gavin Bondy (trumpet) are Beyer 88s.

S.F. Symphony house monitor engineer Kirk Schreil, at the Yamaha PM1000, is using between six and 12 inputs, and up to 13 outputs: seven for the band and up to six for the orchestra.

Guitarist Dan Faehnle and upright bassist Phil Baker groove out to Lauderdale’s piano stylings.

China Forbes sings through a Shure Beta 87.

From left: Gavin Bondy, trumpet; and Robert Taylor, trombone

Brian Davis’ (left) congas take Shure 57s; a Sennheiser 604 mikes his surdu. Seated: Derek Reith.

For Thomas Lauderdale’s piano, there are two DPA 4021s and a Helpinstill pickup.

David Caldwell, FOH engineer for the S.F. date (Plympton was unavailable) installs the Barcus Berry piezo crystal sensor onto the center rib inside the harp, which is played by a symphony member.

S.F. Symphony house piano tuner John Pfeifer makes sure the instrument is heard crystal-clear.

S.F. Symphony’s associate conductor, James Gaffigan