By Spotlight Central
Herb Alpert is a trumpet player most often associated with his iconic ’60s band, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. He is also known for his work as a recording industry executive, having founded A&M Records — an organization which presented the world with such popular recording artists as Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66, The Carpenters, Joe Cocker, Sting, Janet Jackson, Sheryl Crow, and more.
Although over the past two decades Alpert has become a skilled painter and sculptor, his personal musical accomplishments include 28 albums on the Billboard albums chart, five #1 singles, and record sales of more than 72 million units worldwide. Alpert is the only artist to have ever had a #1 single as both a vocalist — for 1968’s “This Guy’s in Love with You” — and as an instrumentalist — for 1979’s “Rise.” A recipient of nine Grammys, Alpert’s most recent award is for Best Pop Instrumental Album for 2013’s Steppin’ Out, a recording he created with his wife, Lani Hall.
Hall started her musical career as lead vocalist for Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66. In 1972, she released her first solo A&M album, Sun Down Lady. She has the distinction of recording more than 22 albums in three different languages. Movie fans know her for her rendition of the theme song to the 1983 James Bond film, Never Say Never Again.
Hall received her first Grammy in 1985 for “Best Latin Pop Performance” for Es Fácil Amar. More recently, she’s released three albums with her husband — Anything Goes, I Feel You, and Steppin’ Out — and accepted her second Grammy Award as producer of 2013’s Steppin’ Out.
Inside Morristown’s Mayo Performing Arts Center’s auditorium on August 1, the lights dimmed and a video was projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage which featured Louis Armstrong and a soundtrack recording of Herb Alpert playing the trumpet on Armstrong’s uplifting song, “What A Wonderful World.”
Filled with images of a variety of instruments, animals, and happy faces from around the globe, the video flashed messages like “Be Kind,” “Be Honest,” and “Help the Unfortunate.” On the recording, Alpert and a children’s choir sang “What a — what a wonderful world,” the video ending with a short film clip of the two smiling trumpet masters and friends — Herb Alpert and Louis Armstrong.
Following enthusiastic applause, a trio of musicians — Bill Santos on piano/keyboards, Hussain Jiffry on bass, and Michael Shapiro on drums — took their places behind their respective instruments before Alpert and Hall made their way onto the stage to avid whistles and cheers.
The first offering was a medley of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass’s “Work Song” and “What Now My Love” — Alpert’s trumpet tone sounding warmer, rounder, and more emotionally stirring than ever on this highly rhythmic arrangement. With the screen behind him showing examples of his visual art talents, Alpert and the band segued into a highly rhythmic up-tempo funk arrangement of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”
Moving on to Van Morrison’s “Moondance,” Alpert’s trumpet danced as he led the musicians through the number before Hall joined them with her interpretative vocal — jazzy and mellow, exciting and fresh. On this Latin/hip-hop arrangement, the rhythm section was precise and expressive and featured Jiffry’s clean bass lines, Santos’s thoughtful piano chords and runs, and Shapiro’s rhythmic slapping of his drumsticks on the rims of his drums. As the three instrumentalists played off one another, the 84-year-old Alpert soloed around them filling the stage — and the entire MPAC performing arts space — with his distinctive sound.
Hall’s turn in the spotlight came when she sang a medley of two Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 songs — “Tim Dom Dom” and “The One Note Samba” — her voice sounding lovely and expressive while being deftly accompanied by her husband on trumpet. Alpert and Company then performed a unique rendition of “Besame Mucho.” Featuring a funky bass line by Jiffry with a backbeat emphasized by Shapiro’s drums, Santos’ clean crisp piano playing, and Alpert’s brassy trumpet sound complemented one another as they wound their way through the composition.
Following audience cheers, Alpert took a seat and spotlighted Hall who gave her own sultry spin on “Besame Mucho” — her beautiful rich, warm alto voice expertly accompanied by Hussain Jiffry who played chords on his bass like a guitarist.
One of several audience-pleasing performances of the evening was a medley of songs made famous by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. As images of a younger Herb and Lani filled the screen, Alpert and the band put a modern spin on such classics as “Rise,” “Whipped Cream,” “The Lonely Bull,” “Spanish Flea,” “Route 101,” “Tijuana Taxi,” and “A Taste of Honey”— bringing back sweet memories to the smiling crowd.
Following Santos’ use of Count Basie’s infamous three-chord piano ending, audience members stood as Alpert raised his horn in appreciation. He then invited the crowd to join him in singing his 1968 #1 hit, “This Guy’s in Love with You.” After reminding everyone that Hall was a member of Sérgio Mendes and Brasil ’66 Alpert revealed that they have been happily married for 45 years. Hall, 73, sang Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “Up On the Roof,” making it personal and artistic with just her voice and the sound of Santos’s piano.
Segueing into one of the Brasil ’66’s biggest hits, “The Look of Love,” wedding photos of Lani and Herb appeared on the screen. Hall then performed a medley of such additional Brasil ’66 songs as “Upa Neguinho,” “Fool on the Hill,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Like a Lover,” “Night and Day,” and the infectious “Mas Que Nada,” which had the audience singing along and responding with a standing ovation.
The ensemble then played an arrangement of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” which featured an Afro-Latin feel. Jiffry sang lead as he played bass, and Santos accompanied him with a Hammond organ sound. Soon, Hall joined in singing, and the vocalists alternated with Alpert’s rhythmic trumpet playing before the group concludes in four-part harmony. The band followed up with “Fly Me to the Moon,” where Jiffry inspired the crowd as he played chords on his bass, Hall tapped a hand drum, and Shapiro simultaneously tapped and shook a tambourine, the group building in dynamics and intensity to large applause.
The group then did their first-ever performance of the Cole Porter 1934 composition, “Anything Goes.” Calling Porter a “visionary,” Alpert asked the audience to “concentrate on how the lyrics apply to 2019,” as Hall sang, “The world has gone mad today/And good’s bad today/And black’s white today/And day’s night today.” Then Hall transitioned into Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin
Alpert and Hall wrapped up the evening’s festivities by performing a live hip-hop musical soundtrack to the duo’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” music video which flashed on the screen behind them. A lip-dub-influenced production, Alpert disclosed that the entire video — featuring a troupe of talented dancers in addition to Alpert himself who appeared as a bus driver, a barber, and a bartender — was filmed without a single edit.
For an encore, Alpert and the band performed “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” a number with a New Orleans jazz feel on which Shapiro tap danced with his sticks on the rims of his drums until Jiffry’s bass and Santos’ piano joined in the action and brought another layer of varying timbres to accompany Alpert’s lyrical trumpet improvisations.
Finally, Alpert invited the audience to sing along as he, Hall, and the band performed a high-energy rendition of Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana,” where Jiffry sang lead on the first verse, Hall handled the second verse in Portuguese, and the crowd followed up both verses, joyfully singing the famous “At the Copa/Copacabana/The hottest spot north of Havana” chorus.