Winner: Pink Martini

Pink Martini may be Oregon’s own homegrown band but its music, lyrics and fans are global. Thomas Lauderdale, a classically trained pianist, founded the group in 1994. Shortly thereafter, he teamed up with Harvard classmate and vocalist, China Forbes, to write songs. It was a fortuitous pairing as their first song, “Sympathique,” became an overnight sensation in France, where it was nominated for song of the year. Since then, the ten- to twelve-member petite orchestra has recorded six studio albums in thirteen languages on its own label, Heinz Records (named for Lauderdale’s dog). Its worldwide sales have topped two million. “A Retrospective,” released in 2011, is a mélange of old favorites and unreleased tracks. The band recently completed a tour of Japan with singer Saori Yuki and is currently performing throughout the United States and Europe, including at Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops. In April 2013, the band will release “Get Happy,” a tribute to Phyllis Diller. (pinkmartini.com)

Runner-Up: Mel Brown Quartet

Photo by Heidi Swift

Every Wednesday night, jazz lovers can hear the Mel Brown Quartet, or M.B.Q., perform at Jimmy Mak’s jazz club in Portland’s Pearl District. The quartet consists of legendary drummer Mel Brown, Tony Pacini on the piano, Ed Bennett on bass and Dan Balmer on guitar, playing what Brown calls “straightahead jazz,” a style that began with bebop in the 1940s. Before turning to jazz, Brown appeared with many Motown musicians— Martha and the Vandellas, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and others. M.B.Q. has reprinted two CDs on the Saphu Records label, with a new CD coming out in 2013.

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