September 26, 2015

“There’s something about a good melody and a lyric. You still remember it.”

Thus was summarized the attitude, evening and career of Herb Alpert with his wife of 41 years Lani Hall at Pepperdine’s Center for the Arts on a balmy Friday night. During an impromptu sing-along of “This Guy’s In Love With You,” he was able to have the entire audience join in with a verse they hadn’t heard since Nixon was in the White House. That’s the power of a good song.

At 80 years old, trumpeter Herb Alpert is one of the few artists left that has been able to use his jazz chops in a way that resonates with the popular masses. His multiple top ten hits in the 60s and 70s were all in display, along with his wife Lani Hall’s vocals which were also made famous during the same time with Brasil 66. In this day of compartmentalization, it’s difficult to appreciate the fact that both of these artists crossed generations and styles to create a sound and rhythms for Americans that was both artistic and popular.

And with a team of Michael Shapiro/dr, Hussain Jiffrey/b and Bill Cantos/p-key, the married couple did it with class, as the band started the set with a funky jam on “Bittersweet Samba” before Hall came to the mic and with her clear and wondrous voice delivered a sly and samba’d “Moondance.” She was cheerful and chirpy on the bouncy “O Pato” while going intimate and enticing with Jiffrey’s 6 stringed bass on a noir-ish “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.”

As for Alpert, he was hiply behind the beat with his crisp, clear and concise solos during the funky “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” while during the Tijuana Brass medley, delivered a funky “Lonely Bull” and “Taste Of Honey” that was as hip as anything that came from Miles Davis’ lips. Hall then showed how “samba” was used as a verb back in the day and delivered a sensuous “Look of Love” and “Like a Lover” that still resonate today. When the whole band joined in for a festive “Mas Que Nada,” you might have thought that the Carnival had begun!

By the time the team encored with a selection of Jobim classics and the irresistible Brazilian take of “Night and Day,” the packed house was reminded that in this day of cacophony and mindless chops, people still want melodies to remember. The happily married couple gave us much to be reminded of.

Upcoming shows at Pepperdine include Steve Tyrell 10/15, Tommy Emmanuel 01/19-20 and The  Jones Family 02/05.