Singer Storm Large wasn't sure what to do when the band Pink Martini asked her to fill in as lead vocalist in April of 2011.

The group was in a bind.

It had four sold-out shows scheduled for the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., that China Forbes, Martini's co-founder and primary singer, couldn't make because of a polyp on one of her vocal cords.

Large was friends with Forbes and fellow founder Thomas Lauderdale, but she wasn't familiar with their music, a repertoire of songs that blended English, Spanish, Turkish, French, Japanese and Croatian lyrics.

On top of that, Large was concerned with what people might think.

"If I showed up as the singer, with everyone expecting China, that would make me look like a jerk," Large, 43, said in a phone interview from the Detroit Metro Airport. "I would be instantly judged. Couple that with being completely unprepared, and that's a tough position to be in."

The Portland, Ore., performer eventually sucked it up and accepted the challenge.

The shows went smoothly - so smoothly that Large was asked to share touring duties with Forbes from that point forward.

The two continue to divide up the band's dates.

Large will perform with Pink Martini in Mexico City tonight, then in Tucson this Saturday where the group will be backed by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra as part of its Pops series.

From there, Forbes will take over as the ensemble heads to Seoul, South Korea, then Tokyo and Europe.

Large would normally take at least part of Europe, but she is preparing for a series of gigs as a solo vocalist with the Oregon Symphony and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

She will perform a run of Kurt Weill's "Seven Deadly Sins" with both groups, completing the mini-tour at Carnegie Hall in New York.

"I have to be rested for that," she said. "It is a really challenging piece."

As far as Tucson goes, fans should expect to hear a retrospective of signature Pink Martini hits from over the last 19 years, songs such as "Hang on Little Tomato" and "Let's Never Stop Falling In Love," set to the strings of the TSO.

Concertgoers will also get to hear newer tracks from the band's 2011 album "1969," a collaboration with Japanese vocalist Saori Yuki.

Large, whose godmother lives in Tucson, said she has received few complaints about singing with Pink Martini over the last two years, though she realizes how important Forbes is to the group.

"China is an established star," she said. "She is a name that is synonymous with Pink Martini. I know that I'll always have big shoes to fill."

If you go

• What: Pink Martini with the TSO Pops.

• When: 8 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Tucson Music Hall, 260 S. Church Ave.

• Tickets: $34-$69 through online.

• Info: 882-8585

Contact reporter Gerald M. Gay at or 807-8430.