HERB ALPERT, LANI HALL PERFORM AT SUNSET

April 8, 2015
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Depending on how old you are, the name Herb Alpert might bring to mind iconic hits with The Tijuana Brass, like “Taste of Honey” and “Spanish Flea.” Some might remember television’s “Dating Game,” which used several of Alpert’s recordings. Younger listeners may have grooved to “Rise” in 1979 or heard it sampled in “Hypnotize” in 1997, on Notorious B.I.G.’s “Life After Death.”

Alpert’s career has spanned over five decades, nine Grammy awards and over 30 albums, including his latest, “In the Mood.” He first picked up a trumpet at age 8. “I was super shy,” he told The Californian, “and I liked the way the trumpet was talking for me.” His professional career began when he wrote songs with Lou Adler, including “Wonderful World” for Sam Cooke in 1959. By 1962, he’d formed A&M Records with partner Jerry Moss. “We did it on a handshake and ended on a hug,” he said of the business partnership, adding, “The only contract we ever wrote was the one when we sold the company in 1990.”

He was 80 on March 31, and on May 9, he’ll be at the Sunset Center in Carmel with his three-piece band and his wife of 41 years, singer Lani Hall. They met when he signed her to his record label. She was part of Sergio Mendes’ group, Brasil ’66, and is also a Grammy-winning artist. Alpert said he tries to make music that’s “visual.” It began with his first hit performance, “The Lonely Bull,” written after he’d seen a bullfight in Tijuana. After its release, he received a letter from a woman in Germany saying, “Thank you for sending me on a vicarious trip to Tijuana!” On “In the Mood,” his recording of “Spanish Harlem” achieves his goal. From the opening piano chords and trumpet notes to the light electronic overlay, the song depicts the laziness of a summer day in the city. You can practically smell the food cooking.

“Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” the album’s opener, is equally evocative. Calling it “a nice ride,” Alpert said it was “an interesting combination of electronics, jazz and strings.”

The album closes with a short cut of “America the Beautiful,” using instruments from all seven continents. This love note to the melting pot that produced Alpert is sweet and understated. “I’m proud of this song because we’re living in a country where creativity can flourish,” he commented.

Alpert said the concert in Carmel would be his first, although he said he loved Christmas shopping there. He described the format as “very impromptu and spontaneous.” He promised a Tijuana Brass medley and performances by Hall, who he described enthusiastically as “a world-class singer.” The ensemble touring with him has been together eight years. The concert is in conjunction with Sunset Center’s annual Gala, “Sunset at the Copa,” which starts at 5 p.m. Separate tickets for the Gala and the concert can be purchased at sunsetcenter.org.

Elaine Hesser is a food/freelance writer who lives in Salinas. Contact her at: emgiuliano@gmail.com.

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