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Herb Alpert-Lani Hall Quintet at Musical Instrument Museum

Patricia Myers By
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Herb Alpert-Lani Hall Quintet
Musical Instrument Museum
Phoenix, Arizona
March 17, 2014

Trumpeter-vocalist Herb Alpert and vocalist Lani Hall performed a lively and captivating concert that linked their past triumphs to their newest collaborations. The uber-professionalism of this concert conveyed the ambience of a New York City cabaret show, an informal and relaxing mode that brimmed with rich talent.

The California couple wove their vast catalog of standards, pop hits and Brazilian songs from six decades of success into a new musical context. In a quintet setting with their longtime trio, their solo and duet vocals combined pop instrumentals and timeless jazz with Latin-influenced rhythms. These were satisfying reminders of their past triumphs, when he led the Tijuana Brass and she sang with Brasil '66 before their marriage 39 years ago.

The pair performed with pianist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer Michael Shapiro, their colleagues since 2007 with whom they released two CDs, Anything Goes and I Feel You (Concord Music Group, 2009, 2011). Their newest collaboration won a 2014 Grammy for "Best Pop Instrumental Album" for Steppin' Out (Herb Alpert Presents, 2013).

Excerpts performed from that CD included a Tijuana Brass-style take on Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz," also other Great American Songbook standards such as "Let's Face the Music and Dance," "It's All in the Game" and "I've Got You Under My Skin."

Alpert's trumpet sound, softened via a black felt mute, complemented Hall's vibrant vocals for the opening selection, "Moondance," her voice later husky and sensual in Portuguese for "O Pato," "Corcovado" and "Agua de Beber." The audience reacted enthusiastically when 78-year-old Alpert played his 1965 chart-topping "A Taste of Honey," and also when he sang his 1968 vocal hit, "This Guy's in Love with You."

A hit-bits medley covering a dozen songs reflected the band leader's career heights, including "The Lonely Bull," Alpert telling how his inspiration for the sound came from hearing guitarist Les Paul overdubbing multi-tracks. Alpert's 1962 recording overdubbed his trumpet tracks amid recorded shouts of ole, which Alpert had this concert audience replicate.

That single was the first hit for A&M Records, which the 27-year-old trumpeter had started in his garage-studio with partner Jerry Moss, and led to the first album by Tijuana Brass, based on the horns sound Alpert said he heard at a bull fight in Tijuana, Mexico. Other medley segments recalled "Tijuana Taxi," Europa," "Spanish Flea," "What Now My Love?" and "Zorba the Greek," demonstrating the versatility he created with Tijuana Brass.

In addition to his career in music, Alpert became an abstract impressionist painter and sculptor with numerous exhibits here and abroad. A replication of one of his colorful acrylic paintings was the stage backdrop that changed depth and hues via shifting spotlights. Alpert and Hall are philanthropists, donating funds to save the Harlem School of the Arts, which this year was renamed "The Harlem School of the Arts—The Herb Alpert Center." The Herb Alpert Foundation supports youth and arts education as well as environmental issues.

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