Herb Interviewed In The Philadelphia Daily News

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Tickets for Boston & Philly are $29 - $44... Is There A Better Bargain In Live Music Today?!?!!!! Herb & Lani Are Riding A Rivival According To This Writer

Music: Trumpeter & music legend Herb Alpert & vocalist Lani Hall, his wife, ride a revival

Philadelphia Daily News

TRUST THIS: Even if you've never heard of Herb Alpert, you've heard his music.

The "A" (to partner Jerry Moss' "M") in A&M Records, Alpert's label scored huge successes in the glory years of album pop and rock with the likes of Janet Jackson's "Control," (Peter) "Frampton Comes Alive," Carole King's "Tapestry" and everything put out by Sting and the Police, the Carpenters, Sheryl Crow and Cat Stevens.

Even before all that, Alpert had scored beaucoup hits as a writer and producer with tunes like "Alley Oop" and Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World." Then he came front and center, blowing his trumpet with the Tijuana Brass, a mariachi-horn-tuned pop jazz group that got A&M off the ground in a really big way.

"In 1966 and '67, we outsold the Beatles and Elvis with 13.5 million albums," Alpert shared earlier this week by phone. "I know the number because it's in the Guinness Book of World Records."

And dollars to doughnuts, you can surely hum at least one of the band's perkiest tunes - "Spanish Flea" - immortalized as the bubbly theme of "The Dating Game.

"I love the power of TV," Alpert still marvels. "When I did 'Rise' in 1979, it was Luke and Laura's theme [first heard when he's sexually assaulting her on a dance floor!] on that soap opera ['General Hospital']." That catapulted the record onto the charts.

"Then just last weekend, after Lani [Hall, his singing partner and wife] and I did the 'CBS Sunday Morning' show, our new album ['I Feel You'] went from six to number one on Amazon.com in a half-hour, followed by seven of my other CDs. It was unbelievable."

Not that he needs to, but just because he wants to, Herb and Lani are currently out on the road performing concerts "with some talented young musicians" in spots like our Keswick Theatre, where they land tonight. They're focusing on material from that just-out-this-week album, a labor of love that touches on "songs I've been whistling in my head forever," Alpert shared.

Like "Call Me" (which A&M put out in 1966 with Chris Montez) and "Cast Your Fate to the Wind" (done on A&M by the Sandpipers) and "What Now My Love," which served as the title track from the Tijuana Brass' sixth album.

Alpert and Hall are also tempting fate with intriguing, back-to-back covers of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" and "Blackbird," and a song indelibly marked by Peggy Lee, "Fever." Yet in all cases, the mix of Herb's spare, airy, melancholy trumpet tones and Lani's darkly burnished, thoughtful vocals do cast a different, deeper spell, one that actually grows stronger and richer with repeated listens.

"The whole premise of the set is to take songs that are recognizable and scramble them up in a way they haven't been heard before," Alpert said. "If we couldn't do them differently it didn't make sense to record them. . . . Our versions fall somewhere between pop and jazz, but it's not fusion, which all sounds the same to me, all hitting drums on the two and four.

"When we first started recording, I scared the drummer by telling him I didn't want to hear any backbeats. And there aren't any, except on the first cut," their rendering of Van Morrison's "Moondance."

Clearly, Lani's the singer in the team - Alpert met her when she was auditioning for the part with another big A&M act, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66. But he also has his gravely way on a couple tunes, reminding us of his one and only big hit as a singer, "This Girl's in Love with You."

His buddy Burt Bacharach handed it over to Herb for the Tijuana Brass to use on a TV show, and Alpert laid it down vocally in the studio as a rough demo "just to see if it would fit the arrangement. Then when I went into the control room for the playback, the singers and musicians who were gathered there said, 'Don't touch it.'

"I guess I've got this unpretentious way of communicating as a singer that some might appreciate. Sometimes I'm even in key."

Herb and Lani's comeback as recording artists was similarly lacking in design, he said. After selling off A&M in 1990 for major bucks ("we saw the writing on the wall with online file sharing"), he went in different directions, including "dabbling" as a producer (or as he calls it, "a suit") on Broadway shows such as "Angels in America," "Jelly's Last Jam" and August Wilson's "Seven Guitars."

More satisfying and still ongoing is his work with Lani running their own foundation, focused largely on art, education and jazz, including "saving a school in Harlem . . . and funding an organization in Berkeley that's studying whether compassion can be taught."

About four years ago, the couple decided to go out and perform a few shows on a lark, including some at the "small but beautiful" L.A. jazz club he co-founded called Vibrato. "It was all about having a good time, getting young musicians around us, enjoying the impromptu experience onstage, making it up as we go along. The reaction was fantastic, and no one shouted out for 'Lonely Bull' and 'Tijuana Taxi.'

"When we got home, I listened to the board tapes, and they sounded so good I isolated 14 cuts and pieced together a concert album, "Anything Goes." And after it sold well, that encouraged us to make a studio album, and here we are. Out on the road again. It's a drag to pack and unpack. But it's great to perform."

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall, Keswick Theatre, Easton Road and Keswick Avenue, 8 tonight, $34.50 & $44.50, 215-572-7650, www.keswicktheatre.com.



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Cool...glad that he seems to feel both appreciated and successful. Must be extremely satisfying to see the catalog gain some sales steam.
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