Herb Alpert & Lani Hall @ The Cafe Carlyle - New York City Article
Herb Alpert & Lani Hall
The Café Carlyle
35 E 76th Street, (212) 744-1600
Through September 16
Clearly, this is Herb Alpert’s most multi-culti offering yet: his group consists of a six-string bassist from Sri Lanka (Hussain Jiffrey), a keyboardist with a vaguely Spanish name (Bill Cantos), and a drummer named Shapiro (as in Michael Shapiro), while his central collaborator, both personally and professionally, is a Brazilian vocalist (that is to say, she specializes in singing in Portuguese) from Chicago; Mr. Alpert, whose mother was named Goldberg, was himself originally inspired to play trumpet by the great Jewish swing star Ziggy Elman.
The music is as internationally diverse as it can be: he starts with a vintage hit, the French chanson “What Now My Love” (“Et maintenant"), and veers soon into the Brazilian “El Pato” (it was, in fact, raining that night - lovely weather for ducks), and the Mexican “Besame Mucho,” wherein he teased out the melody by starting with “Hawaiian War Chant” and “If I Were a Rich Man.” There was also a Reggae-styled arrangement of Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours,” and a snappy revision of “C’Est Si Bon” - yet more cultural diversity. The generous, 80-minute set pivots around long medleys of songs by his colleague (and Ms. Hall’s most famous employer), Sergio Mendez, the classic bossas nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim, and, not to disappoint his many fans, the Pan American stylings of his most famous band, the Tijuana Brass.
In between these medley set-pieces, Mr. Alpert and his combo treated us to selections from his recent series of albums (he’s released eight since 2009, including Music Vol. One, from earlier this year, and The Christmas Wish, due out this month). We heard Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature” (sort of a jazz standard thanks to Miles Davis), Van Morrison’s “Moon Dance,” and “Something” and “Michelle” by various Beatles, all on an equal playing field with Cole Porter (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”) and Irving Berlin (“Puttin’ on the Ritz”). Mr. Alpert may have been originally inspired by Ziggy Elman, but in a bright and bouncy shuffle beat, and a trumpet tone distinguished by a plastic cup mute, he continues to bring to mind the under-appreciated brass giant Charlie Shavers, especially.
Mr. Albert truly enjoys playing in the intimate space of the Carlyle (it’s his fifth run there) - which gives him a chance to banter back and forth with the crowd. Ms. Hall’s vocals are a major asset, but his primary accomplishment is making instrumental trumpet music more entertaining to 21st century audiences than a lot of naysayers might think possible.
photo: David Andrako
Author: Will Friedwald
Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.
SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)