Herb Alpert & Lani Hall – World Café Live – Philadelphia, PA – April 23, 2018
World Café Live took a Tijuana taxi south of the border the other night when legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert and his long-time wife Lani Hall (who used to be the lead singer of Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66) shared many of the swinging jazzy compositions from their 50-year plus careers.
Two of the defining lights in popularizing 60s jazz and giving it a Latin vibe, Alpert and Hall (separately, and yet together) mixed swinging jazz beats with traditional Mexican cantina rhythms, pretty much creating the smooth jazz genre (we’ll withhold our opinion on whether that is always a good thing). Alpert and his band The Tijuana Brass was best known for rollicking instrumentals like “Tijuana Taxi,” “The Spanish Flea,” “The Lonely Bull,” “Whipped Cream,” “Rise” and “A Taste of Honey.” (You may not recognize the slightly generic titles, but if you are over 30 undoubtedly you’d recognize each of the songs.) With Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66, Hall wrapped her distinctive jazzy vocals over such classics as “Mas Que Nada,” “Like a Lover,” “O Pato,” “The Look of Love” and the superlative cover of the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill.”
Alpert is a renaissance man, beyond playing on, arranging and producing many albums over the years, he has worn many hats and had many interests. He was the “A” in the venerable record label A&M Records, which introduced the world to many huge artists, including Sergio Mendes, the Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Styx, Supertramp, Bryan Adams and Janet Jackson. He also founded another label, Almo Sounds, which is best known for breaking Garbage. Alpert has also been painting for over 50 years – several of his works of art were used as stage backdrops for this concert. (Between the paintings, old photos, vintages clips of their bands, current music videos, etc., this 83-year-old trumpeter schooled many much younger artists on video stage production.)
However, 44 years into their marriage, the couple can still put on one hell of a show.
The concert started with Alpert’s newest video, a commentary piece with a lovely, mostly instrumental take of the Louis Armstrong standard “What a Wonderful World.” Then the band started out with a series of terrific covers, everything from a sultry version of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature,” to a nearly unrecognizable jazz re-up of Van Morrison’s “Moondance.”
Alpert was a terrific host, good naturedly cracking wise at himself – “There I am before I started dying my hair gray,” he said, pointing to a photo of himself in the 60s. When Alpert took lead vocals on one of the few songs he ever sang, “This Guy’s in Love with You,” he also openly acknowledged his vocal limitations. He also took questions from the audience about his long career. These included telling a story which was both funny and tragic at the same time, about one instance when Alpert loaned a trumpet to his good friend Chet Baker, who was going through some hard times and needed it to make a new recording. Baker (best known for “Let’s Get Lost” and “Almost Blue”) was a brilliant player whose career never reached the heights deserved because he was also an infamous drug addict. Within three days, Baker had pawned the instrument for money to get a fix.
The couple had so many hits that both smashed their biggest classics into medleys. First there was a wonderfully fun mashup of eight of his biggest hits (“Rise” [a 1979 Alpert solo hit], “Whipped Cream,” “The Spanish Flea,” “The Lonely Bull,” “Casino Royale,” “MC’s Shuffle,” “Tijuana Taxi” and “A Taste of Honey”). A little later in the show, Hall took center stage for a Brazil ’66 medley (“The Look of Love,” “Upa, Neguinho,” “The Fool on the Hill,” “Never Say Never Again” [a Hall solo joint from the 80s], “Like a Lover” and “Mas que Nada”), with Alpert adding trumpet on some of her songs.
The band also did a wide-ranging and tasteful group of covers, everything from two Beatles songs (“Something” and “Michelle”) to a nice take on Jason Mraz’ new-millennial hit “I’m Yours,” which was accompanied by a charming video exposing men’s adoration and fidelity to the trumpet. There was also a swaying medley of hits by bossa nova legend Antonio Carlos Jobim (including “Aqua de Beber,” “The Waters of March,” “Corvocado,” “One Note Samba,” “The Girl from Ipanema” and more. Alpert and Hall also did show stopping versions of standards like “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” “Putting on the Ritz” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
It was a sweet and smart old-fashioned show, the kind of thing that you would see in Vegas back when Vegas was still cool. Late in their careers, Alpert and Hall have every right to slow down and maybe even retire, but if the licks are still this hot, why would they possibly want to do that?
Copyright ©2018 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: April 25, 2018.
Photos by Jim Rinaldi © 2018