critic's pick 152

Now this is a surprise. Who would have pegged the Portland, Oregon pop exotica pop troupe Pink Martini to come up with one of the most diversely designed holiday albums – in terms of sentiment as well as style – in years?

For the most part, the 14-song Joy to the World flirts with familiarity. But it does so with immense taste and without ever ignoring or – Santa forbid! – disrespecting tradition. As such, it opens with two versions of White Christmas. One is a slice of sleek, jazzy but reverential cool sung by China Forbes with a nod to Phil Spector’s ‘60s version (“there’s never been such a day in Beverly Hills, L.A.”). The second is just as soothing, but is sung in Japanese by Saori Yuki (proclaimed in the bio material as “the Barbra Streisand of Japan”).

Do You Hear What I Hear? is similarly transformed into a light jazz shuffle accented by brass, strings, congas and Forbes’ deliciously understated vocals. When Thomas M. Lauderdale on piano enters to play counterpoint, the song seems to float on air. The album notes also offer a sobering reminder of the song’s origins – namely, that it was penned as a 1962 prayer for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

A few other staples are given similarly complimentary makeovers. Little Drummer Boy is propelled as much by Gavin Bondy’s relaxed trumpet bursts as by percussion while Stephen Taylor’s animated orchestral design for Santa Baby sounds like it now hails from Whoville (but without all the frenzy).

The rest of Joy to the World takes a more multi-cultural view of the holidays. Shchedryk is actually Carol of the Bells performed with its original Ukrainian text and a light, luminous arrangement built around the The Pacific Youth Choir and The Bells of the Cascades. Later, verses of Silent Night are sung lullaby fashion in German, Arabic and English while Elohai, N’tzor is a stark, lovely Hebrew prayer sung by Forbes, Ida Rae Cahana and – wildly enough – National Public Radio correspondent Ari Shapiro.

The finest entries in a very distinguished lot are placed side-by-side late into the album. First up is a version of We Three Kings that weaves sleek, Afro-pop jams (more in line with Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints than serious world beat music) around Forbes’ singing. That leads into a Pink Martini original, a regal bit of holiday pining titled A Snowglobe Christmas that luxuriates in a lazy backdrop of slide guitar and sleigh bells.

The latter is as campy as Joy to the World gets. And even it doesn’t stray far from the refreshingly worldly wonder Pink Martini has now brought to holiday music.

Zoo gorillas head south

Chicago Sun-Times June 11, 1997 | CHUCK MCWHINNIE Six lowland gorillas at Lincoln Park Zoo didn’t win the Super Bowl, but they are going to Disney World and, best of all, escaping the city’s mean winters. disneyanimalkingdomnow.net disney animal kingdom

Don’t cry over the loss, Chicago, because the gorillas will be outside all year long in a habitat that is much larger than their present outdoor home.

Lincoln Park Zoo announced Tuesday that one of its three groups of great apes will get new digs in Walt Disney Animal Kingdom, scheduled to open next spring near Orlando, Fla. Lincoln Park’s desire to give other gorillas more space is a factor cited for the decision. “We’re constantly looking at our collection and what would be better from a health, behavioral and genetic standpoint,” said Zoo Director Kevin Bell. “We’re always looking to see what would be better for our animals.” Bell said the transfer will allow millions of visitors each year to the 500-acre park to learn about the endangered animals. He said the move “enables Lincoln Park to acquire another male. We’re looking for a 7- or 8-year-old.” Based on a recommendation from the Gorilla Species Survival Plan, the troop will move to Florida this month. It includes 16-year-old Gino, the group’s dominant silverback male, females Hope and Benga and younger males Hasani, M’Bizi and Zawadi. Their new home will be a 44,000-square-foot outdoor exhibit that includes waterfalls, moats, African plants and plenty of room to roam. Visitors will view the animals from a suspension bridge, officials said. Their current outdoor habitat has 6,000 square feet. When the temperature dips below 55 degrees, the apes are confined inside the Great Ape House for the winter. In Florida, the new gorilla exhibit is in two sections – one for an all-male group and the other for Gino, the two females and Hasani. Lincoln Park has recorded 43 gorilla births, more than any other U.S. zoo. All the gorillas going to Florida were born here except Gino, who was born in Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands in 1980. Benga is 16 and the mother of six; Hope is 13 and the mother of three, Zawadi is 5, M’Bizi is 3 and Hasani is 2. “We’re all going to miss them,” said Alan Varsik, collections manager for large mammals. But Varsik took the move philosophically, saying all children eventually must leave the nest. As for the zoo’s adopt-an-animal program, Bell said all participants have been notified and will be given the opportunity to adopt other animals. here disney animal kingdom

CHUCK MCWHINNIE



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