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Herb's Interview in Troy's "The Record"

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Captain Bacardi

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A nice little interview of Herb for the upcoming gig in Troy, NY from "The Record": http://www.troyrecord.com/articles/2009/10/29/entertainment/doc4ae898e8c1c1c098862232.txt

The Herb Alpert you don't know

By Phil Drew
The Record

“In the ‘60s, when we were playing with the Tijuana Brass, we were playing huge arenas, seventeen, eighteen thousand people,” says the international icon Herb Alpert. “It was an impersonal experience for me. You couldn’t see the people unless somebody lit a cigarette.”

It is a mark of his longevity in the music business that Alpert can recall a time when concertgoers could smoke in public arenas. Almost five decades in music — and his principal regret in all that time is the lament of a successful artist, distance from their public. For all of his arena-filling as a performer — to say nothing of equally successful careers as record producer, arranger, and executive, co-founder of, and the “A” in, A&M Records – Alpert, by his own account, has longed to book a few lounges here and there with a small combo and simply play.

Now, two decades removed from selling his interests in A&M and narrowing his focus to his performing career, Alpert has for several years been living out this wish.

He has embarked on a yearlong national tour that, while it includes a few larger stops like LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Nokia Theatre in Times Square, takes in mostly more intimate stages such as colleges and jazz clubs, regional playhouses and performing arts centers. Among the earliest tour stops: the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall this Sunday.

“Haven’t been to Troy before. I’m a virgin,” he jokes.

There aren’t many places — on a map or within the framework of the music industry — that Herb Alpert hasn’t been. He and longtime pal Jerry Moss launched A&M in a garage in 1962 and it quickly became a top independent record label. They got out before the 90’s merger mania. “Quite frankly, I’m glad to be out of that business,” he says. He’s been a successful Broadway producer of everything from August Wilson and Arthur Miller to “Angels in America” and “Jelly’s Last Jam.”

A classically-trained trumpet player, he and his horn have been to the top of the charts with a distinctive series of mid-60s hits with the Tijuana Brass like “Spanish Flea” and the Grammy-winning “A Taste of Honey,” and iconic solo work like “This Guy’s In Love with You” and “Rise.” No less an authority than Miles Davis has said, “you hear three notes, you know it’s Herb Alpert. ... That’s kind of a nice tribute,” says Alpert self-effacingly.)

Ironically, his success has often pigeonholed Alpert under the industry euphemisms “easy listening” and “adult contemporary,” labels he resists, when his soul and his sensibility have always been closer to jazz.

He’s played with Louis Armstrong, Wynton Marsalis and Hugh Masakela, produced Stan Getz and Gato Barbieri. “All those songs I had big records of, I never rehearsed them before I recorded,” he says. “I could be spontaneous. The only time I really rehearsed was when I recorded (the soundtrack of the film) ‘Zorba the Greek.’ Otherwise it was always loosey-goosey” — improvised, jazz.

The current tour comes in support of the August release of “Anything Goes,” his very first full-length collaboration with his wife of nearly four decades, Lani Hall.

As distinctive as Alpert’s horn is Hall’s voice – lead singer of Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 — equals it on such hits as “The Look of Love” and “Fool On The Hill.”

If any musical act is closely filed along side Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in the mental soundtrack of music lovers of a certain age, it would be Sergio Mendes and his band. And it makes sense, Alpert put the Brasilian band together, discovered its Chicago-born lead singer and brought them to an American audience through his record label. When Hall left the band in the early 70s to pursue a solo career, Alpert continued to shepherd her professionally – and they married in 1973.

And yet, “I’ve played on a few tracks for her over the years, but this is our first full recording together,” he recalls.

Inspired by a Brasil 66 reunion concert several years back at the Hollywood Bowl, where Alpert sat in, they decided to indulge his desire for smaller venues and a tighter band, but not without some trepidation. “I thought if we got a little group together and played clubs, I was afraid people would want to hear ‘Lonely Bull’ and ‘Tijuana Taxi.’ You know, they’d be calling out for the old stuff. But we did it, and it worked. And the more we did it, the more fun we had.”

The new CD is a record of some of those live performances at a host of club venues on both coasts.

“Lani is like the linchpin of the whole thing,” says Alpert. “She establishes the song, but everything going on behind her is kind of spontaneous. Lani loves jazz, and I love jazz.”

“Anything Goes” features their current band, drummer Michael Shapiro, bassist Hussain Jiffrey and pianist Bill Cantos. “They’ve all played with some wonderful, gifted musicians, and we’re very lucky to have them,” says Alpert. Cantos, in fact, contributed a pair of tunes to the new CD, but it is mostly a compilation of standards – “Fascinating Rhythm,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Let’s Face The Music and Dance,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” – delivered with a slightly unexpected, but distinctively Alpert, tempo and touch.

“We’ve taken some of the greatest composers our country has produced, Gershwin, Porter, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Harold Arlen. Things like that aren’t being written these days,” he says. “But I didn’t want to take familiar pieces and play them in the same way, like, ‘Not these songs again, we’ve heard them a thousand times.’ Our approach was to take these familiar songs and find our own voice for them.”

The concert tour extends through at least next spring, but Alpert hopes to hold together his more intimate band and sound for the long haul.

“Each night is different,” he says. “We have a set list that works but we’re always adding new things to it.” While acknowledging the rigors of travelling – “the perfect situation would be everybody coming to see us in one place” – he’s enjoying the tour. “I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t feel good doing it. I get energy from playing with this group, from listening to my wife.” And from not needing lit cigarettes to see his audience.

The Troy Savings Bank Music Hall presents Herb Alpert with Lani Hall at 7 p.m. Sunday. For ticket prices and information – including details on the rest of the 2009-10 season – contact the box office at 273-0038 or online at www.troymusichall.org.

Capt. Bacardi
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