Original Release Date: 1962
Re-issue Date: 2015
The colossus that is A&M Records starts right here with the first album by the 1960s instrumental juggernaut known as the Tijuana Brass. True, there was no “Tijuana Brass” per se at this time; just Herb Alpert and a coterie of Los Angeles sessionmen, with Alpert overdubbing himself on trumpet to get that bullring effect. Also, Alpert was just getting the TJB concept underway; the textures are leaner, the productions less polished, and the accent is more consciously on a Mexican mariachi ambience — the relatively square rhythms, the mandolins, the mournful, wistful siesta feeling — than the records down the road. The hit title track (originally a tune called “Twinkle Star”!) is a cleverly structured, exciting and haunting piece of record-making — and its composer, Sol Lake, becomes the charter member of Alpert‘s team of TJB tunesmiths with several more ethnic-flavored numbers. In accordance with the newly emerging bossa nova movement, Alpert does a nice, straightforward, authentic cover of “Desafinado,” even departing a bit from the tune with some spare jazz-inspired licks, and “Crawfish” pleasingly adapts the mariachi horn sound to a bossa beat.
Original Release Date: 1963
Re-issue Date: 2015
The follow-up LP to The Lonely Bull, in the great tradition of follow-ups, tries to duplicate its appeal right off the bat with another leadoff track featuring bullfight sounds and an authentic bullring tune, “The Great Manolete.” Alpert is beginning to expand his reach beyond Baja, California without losing the ambience of “The Lonely Bull,” sharpening his skills as a producer and exploring other moods and rhythms. In doing so, he comes up with the greatest stripper record this side of David Rose, “Swinger from Seville,” a mocking version of Leonard Bernstein‘s “America” to a lively guajira beat in a wild simulated nightclub, and covers of ’60s standards like “More” and “Spanish Harlem.” He also receives some more haunting contributions from Sol Lake, including the wistful “Winds of Barcelona” (later recorded by Wes Montgomery) and a marvelously produced, Spanish-tinged tone poem, “Marching Through Madrid.” Though released in 1963, this record didn’t really start selling until 1966, when TJB albums were monopolizing the upper reaches of the charts en masse.
Original Release Date: 1964
Herb Alpert was still using an array of SoCal studio all-stars as his Tijuana Brass when South of the Border (1964) began to restore the combo’s good name after the modest Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2 (1963) failed to ignite a fire in listener’s ears. Alpert later commented that the Sol Lake composition “Mexican Shuffle” “opened a new door for me.” That passageway meant the loss of the Tijuana Brass‘ practically forced mariachi style and the rise of Alpert‘s approach in arranging familiar melodies in fresh, creative settings. Nowhere would this stylistic progression be as pronounced as in the horn-driven updates of several then-concurrent chart hits. For instance, the mod sonic wrinkle in “Girl from Ipanema” emits a darkness veiled in mystery, directly contrasting the light buoyancy of “Hello! Dolly” or the footloose feel of the Beatles‘ “All My Loving.” They seamlessly fit in with Sol Lake‘s “Salud, Amor y Dinero” and a cover of Julius Wechter‘s playful, midtempo “Up Cherry Street” — which Wechter‘s own Baja Marimba Band had just recorded for their 1964 self-titled debut. The ballads “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “Angelito,” and “Adios, Mi Corazon” provide contrasts with Alpert‘s sensitive scores never seeming maudlin or unnecessarily over the top. If the regal “El Presidente” sounds particularly familiar, it may well be due to Alpert‘s slight renovation of the “Winds of Barcelona” from the Tijuana Brass‘ previous effort, the less than impressive Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2. It was renamed “El Presidente,” presumably to honor the then-recent memory of the slain U.S. leader John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Original Release Date: 1965
Building upon South of the Border‘s (1964) Top Ten success, Herb Alpert dismissed the contingency of Los Angeles-based studio instrumental all-stars, which he had christened the Tijuana Brass. Because there was enough demand for live dates, just like a musical Gepetto, Alpert formed a real Tijuana Brass. The bandleader/trumpeter was joined by Tonni Kalash (trumpet), Robert Edmondson (trombone), Pat Senatore (bass), John Pisano (guitars), Lou Pagani (piano), and Nick Ceroli (drums). Ostensibly, the personnel wasn’t a primary consideration as Alpert and company had already begun making serious inroads on the pop music scene. Not bad, considering the market was being heavily infiltrated, if not practically dominated by the British Invasion. With Whipped Cream & Other Delights (1965), they would take that momentum to new heights — including three Grammy Awards alone for the update of the Bobby Scott and Ric Marlow-penned theme to Shelagh Delaney’s play of the same name, “A Taste of Honey.” The remainder of the material on the dozen-song album was chosen with food as the underlying thematic motif. Sol Lake — who provided Alpert “The Lonely Bull” and “Mexican Shuffle” returns, and this time he has custom-made the upbeat and, above all, catchy trio of “Green Peppers,” “Bittersweet Samba,” and “El Garbanzo.” Allen Toussaint‘s title composition “Whipped Cream” garnered significant attention, but not as a chart hit. Rather, it could be heard as bachelorettes were being introduced on ABC-TV’s The Dating Game. Early in the series run, additional Alpert offerings were also incorporated as incidental music: “Spanish Flea,” as the bachelors were being announced, “Lollipops and Roses,” when the lucky winners were being told where they would be spending their date, and both “Ladyfingers” and “Lemon Tree” were in rotation as contestants mulled over their answers. [After several poor analog-to-CD transfers in the ’80s and ’90s, Whipped Cream & Other Delights was reissued as part of Shout! Factory’s Herb Alpert Signature Series and boasts remarkably improved sound.]
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass were rolling right down the middle of the American pop scene like a locomotive in 1966 — and this album captures them at the peak of their exuberance. By now, there really was a live, touring edition of the Tijuana Brass, and there was an easily identifiable TJB sound, with its strummed Latin American guitars, twin trumpet leads, delicate marimba or vibes (played by Julius Wechter of Baja Marimba Band fame in the studio), and strong grooves rooted in Latin American music, jazz, and rock. Alpert‘s family of sidemen and composers were busy generating their own catchy hits, like Wechter‘s deadly, infectious “Spanish Flea,” and the tragically short-lived Ervan Coleman‘s wonderfully goofy “Tijuana Taxi.” The bossman’s trumpet could be joyous, mocking, and melancholy in turns, and his choices of tunes totally unpredictable; who else would dare juxtapose “The 3rd Man Theme,” “Walk, Don’t Run,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” and “Zorba the Greek” on one record? No other TJB record has as much unbuttoned fun and humor as this one — and not surprisingly, it spent six weeks at number one in 1966.
Original Release Date: 1966
With this album, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass settle into their hitmaking groove, the once strikingly eclectic elements of Dixieland, pop, rock, and mariachi becoming more smoothly integrated within Alpert‘s infectious “Ameriachi” blend. They sound more like a band; along with Alpert‘s now-indelibly stamped trumpet sound, you can recognize jazzman John Pisano‘s distinctive rhythm guitar, Lou Pagani‘s piano, the droll Bob Edmondson‘s dulcet trombone, etc. Pisano, who debuted as a composer on Going Places, comes up with a memorably whistleable song, “So What’s New,” and the rest of Alpert‘s songwriting brigade (Ervan Coleman, Julius Wechter, and Sol Lake) chime in with some lively, catchy tunes. There is also an assortment of pop, film, and Broadway standards of the day, all impeccably arranged by Alpert, whose production instincts grew sharper and surer with every release. The result is another highly entertaining hit LP, one that stayed at number one longer than any other Tijuana Brass album (nine weeks).
By late 1966, it seemed as if every TV commercial and every pop arranger had latched onto the Herb Alpert “Ameriachi” sound — at which point the resourceful originator of that sound began to pare it down and loosen it up a bit. S.R.O. (Standing Room Only), referring to the Tijuana Brass’ string of sold-out concerts, is an accurate title, for this LP is about a seven-piece band loaded with experienced jazzers who groove and swing together to a greater degree than on their previous albums. Sure, the arrangements are very tightly knit and don’t allow much room for spontaneity, but they still sound fresh and uninhibited, and Alpert often allows the flavor of jazz to come through more clearly. Indeed, two of the album’s three hit singles, “The Work Song” and “Flamingo,” are jazz tunes — the former nervous and driving, the latter joyously kicking — and the third, “Mame,” gets a nifty Dixieland treatment a la Louis Armstrong, with Alpert singing one verse. The sleeping gem of the record is guitarist John Pisano’s “Freight Train Joe,” a wistfully evocative tune that won’t quit the memory, and the mournful Alpert/Pisano/Nick Ceroli tune “For Carlos” later became Wes Montgomery’s “Wind Song.” Though S.R.O. only went to number two on the LP charts, Alpert’s creativity and popularity were still peaking.
Original Release Date: 1967
For one week in June 1967, Sounds Like was able to break the Monkees‘ 31-week hammerlock on the number one slot on the charts — just two weeks before the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper took over and changed the world. This shows, lest you forget — and many have — just how popular Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass were, still spanning the generations during the Summer of Love, still putting out records as fresh and musical and downright joyous as this one. Though not as jazz-flavored as S.R.O., Sounds Like does preserve the feeling, particularly in the extended vamps on an updated slave song, “Wade in the Water” (a hit single). “Gotta Lotta Livin’ to Do” settles you into the record with nothing but a long vamp — a daring production decision. Yet Alpert was on a roll; everything he tried in the TJB‘s heyday seemed to work. The lesser-known tunes back-loaded on side two are a string of pearls — John Pisano‘s appropriately titled bossa nova “The Charmer,” Roger Nichols‘ tense “Treasure of San Miguel,” Ervan Coleman‘s catchy “Miss Frenchy Brown.” Finally, Alpert takes a flyer and concludes the LP with an extravagant Burt Bacharach orchestration of his theme from the film Casino Royale — an artifact of ’60s pop culture, to be sure, but still a perfectly structured record.
The cover art of Herb Alpert’s Ninth is hilarious — a bust of grim old Beethoven wearing a Herb Alpert sweatshirt, a parody of the pop icon fad going around at the time and maybe a comment on the rock world’s newfound pretensions in the wake of the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper. In any case, Herb Alpert’s Ninth does introduce some highbrow pretensions of sorts to Alpert‘s Ameriachi sound — some very subtly applied strands of strings on several numbers and a madcap, multi-sectioned fantasy of tunes from Bizet‘s Carmen that is full of in-jokes from the opera and the TJB‘s hits. Alpert is also quite aware of the brave new world around him; he does a spare, lazy, yet entirely novel-sounding cover version of Sgt. Pepper‘s “With a Little Help from My Friends” and gives the Supremes‘ “The Happening” a bouncy workout. There is also a touching memorial to the late Ervan Coleman (“Bud”) and another underrated contribution from the Alpert songwriting team, Sol Lake‘s swinging “Cowboys and Indians.” The TJB still churns out the Latin American rhythms, but sometimes with a shade less exuberance.
Original Release Date: 1968
Meant as the companion album to a Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass television special of the same name and packaged in a fancy double-fold LP jacket, The Beat of the Brass came out amid signs that Alpert‘s hot streak was finally beginning to run out. Not quite. Viewer requests for a new Burt Bacharach song, “This Guy’s in Love with You” — featuring an Alpert vocal — were so strong that A&M released it as a single, which shot up to number one and took The Beat of the Brass with it to the top. Herb‘s vocal is touching in its strained naïveté; he sounds sincere, and that overrides the lush, overbearing Bacharach orchestral arrangement. The rest of the album generated an often nostalgic quality then and now; the tunes by John Pisano and Sol Lake are exquisite, and Alpert‘s arrangements of songs like “Thanks for the Memory” seem autumnal in quality, as if an era were about to close. The band still has the ability to groove; the vamp on Julius Wechter‘s bossa nova “Panama,” with Wechter‘s jazzy vibes and Pisano‘s strong rhythm guitar, could have been stretched to half an hour. Yet Alpert‘s trumpet sounds a bit withered at times, and the band vocals and cloying children’s chorus on “Talk to the Animals” could be done without.
Herb Alpert turned to jazz’s Shorty Rogers — then toiling in the L.A. film and TV studios — for voice and string arrangements on his Christmas album, and Rogers in turn went all out for schmaltz. Rogers‘ cooing voices introduce several of the tunes, whereupon the Tijuana Brass do their mostly unrelated Ameriachi thing familiar from past albums. Indeed, “Las Mananitas” seems to have been lifted from an obscure B-side of a 45 and overdubbed with the Rogers treatment. Jingling bells is a recurring song theme — first with “Jingle Bells,” then the cloying “The Bell That Couldn’t Jingle,” and ultimately “Jingle Bell Rock.” For the first time in a long time, Alpert‘s sense of pacing occasionally goes awry; “My Favorite Things” nearly comes apart in the silences and piano/vocal interlude between the TJB grooves, and “Sleigh Ride” screeches to a dead halt. And yet time and further exposure has revealed this record’s homey charms, which no doubt is one reason why it continues to be available on CD where other TJB best-sellers have fallen by the wayside.
Original Release Date: 1969
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass shed almost all of the dust of Tijuana on this mellow, richly textured album; one reviewer at the time wrote that Alpert seemed to have exchanged bullrings for wedding rings. Lest one think that the TJB came down with a terminal case of the warm fuzzies, though, there are some selections here that sizzle — particularly the old standard “The Continental” — and in terms of arrangements and song selection, the accent falls on Brazil more than on any other TJB album. Shorty Rogers again was called in to provide voices and orchestrations, but he is more tasteful here than on the Christmas Album, the extreme dynamic range on Harry Nilsson‘s “Without Her” notwithstanding. A different take of “To Wait for Love” — the lovely, Bacharach-penned, Alpert-sung follow-up to “This Guy’s in Love with You” from 1968 — is included here, as is the fine single “Zazueira.” Yet Warm was the first non-seasonal TJB album in some time that couldn’t crack the Top 20, for the Brass‘ cross-generational appeal was fading fast.
The Western motif on the double-fold album jacket — with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass in costume — signals this as another companion album to a TV special. But there is a deeper significance to this LP, for shortly after its release, a burned-out, personally troubled Alpert disbanded the Brass and retired from music for awhile. Indeed, stretches of this record reveal a tired group and a leader whose trumpet has lost much of its old zip. Even so, as on all TJB albums, there are several gems — the stunning shifts in texture and tempo that enliven the worn-out “Moon River,” the chugging bluegrass-tinged arrangement of Villa-Lobos’ “The Little Train of the Caipira” that masquerades under the name of the title track, a haunting rendition of the Beatles’ “I’ll Be Back,” the fast samba treatment of “Anna.” Dave Grusin and Shorty Rogers contribute an occasional orchestration, and Alpert does a modest vocal turn on the lush “You Are My Life.” But this time, the old sales magic was gone; the Tijuana Brass had suddenly become unhip in polarized 1969.
Original Release Date: 1971
Though Herb Alpert was technically taking a sabbatical from music in the early 1970s, he wasn’t entirely inactive, recording in dribs and drabs. So A&M assembled this brief collection of singles and stray cuts in the summer of 1971; it went nowhere on the charts but added some pleasing entries to the Alpert discography. The two best cuts, taken from a 1970 single, are as good as anything from the Tijuana Brass‘ heyday, with Alpert‘s own haunting tone poem “Jerusalem” and a great, strutting arrangement of “Strike Up the Band.” The title track, with a dual vocal by Alpert and his wife Lani Hall, is also intriguing, drawing inspiration from the famous Miles Davis/Gil Evans version, while Alpert pulls off a really good jazz trumpet solo on “The Nicest Things Happen.” Otherwise, most of the tracks on this LP lack energy, and even vigorous arrangements like that of the Beach Boys‘ “Darlin'” drift off distractedly into the ozone. Clearly, Alpert wasn’t quite ready to re-emerge full-blown into the performing world.
Original Release Date: 1974
His four-year sabbatical over, Herb Alpert returned to the studio creatively refreshed, his trumpet sounding more soulful and thoughtful, his ears attuned more than ever to jazz. The name of his studio group has been shortened to just the initials T.J.B., in whose ranks one hears the familiar mallets of Julius Wechter and the lazy trombone of Bob Edmondson, and the old Mexican flavors still come through now and then. But Alpert was definitely still in a pensive mood, and his evocative self-penned title track and choice of tunes like “Alone Again (Naturally)” and “Save the Sunlight” reinforce the LP’s mellow, ’70s contemporary pop atmosphere. Even the upbeat remake of the TJB’s “Up Cherry Street” is filtered through a phase-shifted gauze, a wistful rose-colored vision of the past. Left over from a 1973 single is a terrific, subtle, Latin-jazz-tinged arrangement of “Last Tango In Paris,” with a distinctive orchestral helping hand from Quincy Jones.
Original Release Date: 1975
Encouraged by his comeback album, Herb Alpert assembled a new version of the TJB — including a hotshot second trumpeter, Bob Findley, and jazz piano whiz Dave Frishberg — and hit the studio and road in 1975. Yet Coney Island was a brave, nearly complete departure from the old Tijuana Brass, where the jazzers were given carte blanche and the rhythm section encouraged to do more complex things. As a signal of independence, the new Brass tackle Chick Corea’s “Senor Mouse” head-on, where Frishberg runs wild and even longtime marimbist Julius Wechter is affected by the adventurous spirit. Alpert’s own playing on trumpet (and now flugelhorn and piano) is a bit freer as well, and he goes out on a limb as a composer with the experimental, not-quite-coherent “Carmine.” TJB tradition is also served by a loose, swinging version of “I Have Dreamed,” and an older legacy pops up in the Alpert/Frishberg duet on Jelly Roll Morton’s “The Crave.” But this edition of the Brass was short-lived; the public didn’t get it and Alpert soon moved on to solo projects, leaving this sole LP as its legacy.
Original Release Date: 1978
“Let the good times roll,” Herb Alpert seemed to say as he quickly rejoined forces with Masekela for a follow-up LP to their first collaboration earlier that year. Recording live at the Roxy Theatre and on A&M’s soundstage without duplicating anything on their earlier studio album, the two horn players (Alpert on trumpet, Masekela on flugelhorn) are, if anything, looser and more freewheeling than before. Though Alpert is not on quite as sure a jazz footing as Masekela, neither musician tries to blow the other out of the room. The band, containing only one holdover (guitarist Arthur Adams) from the first album, is more attuned to Latin funk/jazz with a South African tinge this time. Again, Alpert and Masekela have mostly fine tunes to work with, none better than “Foreign Natives” and “Shame the Devil” by African trombonist Mosa Jonas Gwangwa, plud Henry Sithole’s wistfully haunting “Mama Way” (which has chanted vocals and a string quartet). This album and its predecessor had the effect of recharging Alpert’s music, though both are almost forgotten today.
Re-issue Date: 2017
A mustachioed Herb Alpert breaks out of his ’70s blue funk to fuse himself with fellow horn player Hugh Masekela and producer/pianist Caiphus Semenya in a magnificent LP of South African/American pop/jazz. From the joyous opening strains of the South African oldie “Skokiaan,” to the haunting groove of “Moonza,” Alpert wholeheartedly melts into Masekela‘s distinctive idiom, his trumpet a relaxed foil for the South African exile’s blazing flügelhorn. But Masekela can also lean the other way, joining Alpert in TJB-like dual harmony on “Ring Bell.” The band is mostly a coterie of L.A. sessionmen, but they can swing along to the township jive pretty well, and they have some excellent musical material (mostly by Semenya) to work with. Alpert sounds like he’s having more fun making music than he has in a long time.
If the 12″ single of Herb Alpert‘s “Rise” hadn’t taken over the charts the way it did back in 1979, one wonders if anyone would have gotten around to checking out the Tijuana Brass, or if Alpert would have gone down in the books as the guy who had a number one with a Burt Bacharach tune (“This Guy’s in Love with You”). Instead, the cut energized the entire dance club generation, with DJs looking for new grooves, and it even ended up being used by Sean “Puffy” Combs on the Notorious B.I.G.‘s Hypnotise, albeit in a drastically re-morphed form. The single began as a disc track composed by Alpert‘s nephew Randy and his pal Andy Armer. Alpert suggested they slow the groove way down and turn it into a slow mover. They issued it without an album to go with it, simply as a single on A&M. Club DJs picked up on it and began using duplicate copies either to let the percussion break go on a bit longer before trumpet kicked in, or playing one copy just behind another, creating a call-and-response melody with the trumpet and the rhythm section. After the single stormed the charts and stayed there all summer, eventually hitting the number one spot, Alpert, Armer, and friends went about assembling an album to capitalize on it.
They did well: Rise hit number six on the Billboard pop chart. The rest of the tracks are a slew of originals and covers. The set opens with a small pomp and circumstance intro called “1980” that Alpert composed for the Olympics that year, assisted by the late Michel Colombier on keyboards. Alpert also composed the ballad-turned-Latin-dancefloor fire walker “Behind the Rain,” (originally composed for Gato Barbieri‘s Caliente! album) that has its own appeal in the 21st century with chorus-like backing vocals. Other tracks include the Armer and Randy Alpert “Rotation.” This cut, introduced by hand percussion, bells, and shakers is another soulful groover with a killer, soft-spoken keyboard line that’s hypnotic lite funk. A looped synth line enters in place of a bassline. Handclaps, fingersnaps, and Alpert‘s distant trumpet play a melody not unlike the one on the “Lonely Bull.” Effects, washes, reverb, and mild distortion create a futuristic backdrop to this otherwise beautifully melodic tune. Alpert plays in-the-pocket soul-drenched melody lines over the top and one of the first “chillout” tunes was born.
What it all adds up to is an extraordinary recording that stands the test of time as a bona fide classic of the late disco/pre hip-hop era. The pop charts would have none of it these days. But eating this up as folks did, pre-MTV, with simply the radio going nuts trying to introduce the next single from it, Alpert, his nephew, and Armer stumbled onto something that would reinvigorate Alpert‘s career as a recording artist and as a producer.
Original Release Date: 1980
Naturally, the wild success of “Rise” would lead anyone to the temptation of repeating oneself, and at first, this follow-up LP does plenty of that, grafting the same slow, hand-clapping beat onto several numbers. But Alpert won’t sit still for long, and he comes through with some startling things that wake up the record midway through. The funky, percolating party beat of “Red Hot” starts the engine, which is pushed to an electrifying degree by the sequencer-driven, Echoplexed, hard-charging title track, where we hear Alpert’s distinctive horn through a metallic electronic buffer. The most amazing track is the finale, “The Factory,” a terrifying, relentlessly grinding depiction of a soulless foundry that must have shocked sedate former TJB fans who bought this album on a lark, expecting happy music from the past. Bold stuff indeed, and it did make some impact on the charts, though not nearly to the degree of Rise.
Original Release Date: 1981
The high-flying confidence of Rise and the experimental bent of Beyond began to wear off by 1981, giving way to the more relaxed but musically weaker ministrations of Magic Man. With Michael Stokes, then A&M’s director of Black Product/A&R, co-producing, Alpert came up with a pleasant collection of mostly forgettable, mild-mannered R&B/pop-slanted tunes, plus a fairly uneventful rendition-at-length of “Besame Mucho” and a redundant cha-cha/disco remake of his own “You Smile, The Song Begins.” Alpert‘s haunting trumpet still reflects his post-“Rise” sense of command, but he doesn’t have much to say this time; the material holds him back.
Original Release Date: 1982
Challenged and fired up by some new Mexican colleagues, Herb Alpert set out to make a record specifically for the Latin American market and ended up producing a masterpiece — the equal of the best Tijuana Brass albums, and in some ways maybe better than any of them. Fandango has a more authentically Latin American sound than the cosmopolitan TJB records, using rhythms from Mexico to South America, adding a coating of strings or synthesizers and Alpert’s soaring trumpets. More importantly, with the help of co-producer Jose Quintana, Alpert lined up some incredibly beautiful material from then-little-known writers like Juan Carlos Calderon, Diego Verdaguer and Roberto Carlos. Some of these tracks are spine-chilling in their emotional pull and uncanny sense of structure; Alpert the master of the studio working at his peak. Alpert’s magnificent renderings of Calderon’s high-flying “Route 101” (a Top 40 hit single) and aching “Margarita” are perfect records; you wouldn’t want to change a note. He also has a ball with Verdaguer’s driving “Coco Loco,” and the concluding track is a fast-moving medley of Latin American hits starting with Mexico’s “Frenesi” and rambling through Brazil’s “Bahia” and Spain’s “Moliendo Cafe” before riding off with the irresistible Venezuelan “Porompompero.” As much as one hates to limit the horizons of an adventurous musician like Herb Alpert, one must admit that Latin influences inspire his best work — and whether working in a Latin framework or not, he has yet to equal this album.
Original Release Date: 1983
This album is typical of Herb Alpert‘s ’80s style, with his familiar horn sound grafted to contemporary dance and R&B rhythm tracks. He even got the old Motown team of Holland-Dozier-Holland to write and co-produce a couple of tunes. Although there is nothing here to rival Alpert‘s 1979 comeback “Rise,” he had multi-format success with the album, which charted pop, R&B, and jazz and threw off two chart singles, “Garden Party” and “Red Hot.”
Original Release Date: 1984
Yes, Herb Alpert did indeed record an album in 1984 under the name Tijuana Brass for the first time in nine years — and in fact, he took a Tijuana Brass contingent on tour that year with four of the original bandmembers on hand. But this album has nothing to do with the old TJB, for the music is the same high-tech pop of the 1980s that Alpert had been mostly purveying since “Rise,” and with synths galore, a frantic electronic dance beat on many numbers, and none of the original Brass on the sessions. No wonder, for the arranger is John Barnes, who had worked for the Jacksons (Alpert was no fool; the Jacksons‘ sound was never hotter). About all that remains of the TJB is Alpert‘s familiar trumpet, which often hearkens back to his ’60s manner in this gleaming setting. The best moments are the whomping title track, the hyperactive “Struttin’ on Five,” and the optimistic “Life Is My Song.” But to call this a “Tijuana Brass” album is bordering on consumer fraud for the faithful — though on its own terms, it is a fairly live slice of ’80s pop.
Original Release Date: 1987
The unbelievable sales success of this record is a testament to Herb Alpert’s extraordinary ability to keep his ear to the ground — no doubt aided by his position as vice-chairman and co-owner of A&M Records — and adapt to the times. At a time when A&M’s Janet Jackson was blazing up the charts, Alpert journeyed to Minneapolis and cut some tracks with Jackson’s producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, producing the others himself in a mostly similar techno-pop vein. Presto!, three Top Ten R&B singles came out of the album, “Keep Your Eye on Me,” “Making Love in the Rain,” and the number one hit “Diamonds.” The flashy, trashy “Diamonds” no doubt was aided on its rush up the charts by Jackson and Lisa Keith’s bouncy lead vocals; it’s really their record and that of Jam and Lewis, despite Alpert’s top billing. Jackson and Keith also take the lead in the simple-minded lyrics of “Making Love in the Rain,” which nevertheless has a haunting effect accented by Alpert’s muted musings through an electronic gauze. At first, this seems like a gleaming digital machine of a record, loaded with repetitive sampling effects and drum machines churning out that ubiquitous ’80s backbeat. But the techno stuff gradually gives way to Alpert’s humane trumpet, which in a touching valentine to the ’60s on Acker Bilk’s “Stranger on the Shore,” is eventually allowed to soar unimpeded over the electronics.
Original Release Date: 1991
Ever attuned to what is happening out there in recordland, Herb Alpert tried to graft his trumpet onto the rhythms and textures of hip-hop and techno-dance music in North On South St., hoping again to crash the R&B charts. He used four young black co-producers (Greg Smith, Robert Jerald, Jimmy B and Troy Staton) and they get some festively percolating grooves going on tracks like “Passion Lady” and “Paradise 25.” Clearly Alpert’s early jazz leanings were beckoning more strongly, and his Miles Davis-like musings over the dance tumult actually anticipated the acid-jazz movement later in the decade, making this a historically important record. Yet there is something melancholy about Alpert’s playing on this album, like a lonely figure from the past looking in on a party from an outside window on the street, genuinely wanting to join in but unable to totally connect. Still, for someone of Alpert’s age (56) at the time of release, it is amazing that he was willing and able to stay in touch with the cutting edge of contemporary pop.
Original Release Date: 1992
Having recently sold A&M to PolyGram for a cool $500 million, and with his short but hugely affecting association with the late Stan Getz on his mind, Herb Alpert finally took the plunge and recorded what he called a jazz album, his last for the label he co-founded. But this would not be a conventional blowing session; rather it is an intimate, inward, wee-small-hours kind of album where, muted and not, Alpert’s horn sighs, laments and sings over a conventional rhythm section and underneath a blanket of lush strings. Without a doubt, Miles Davis in his introspective ’50s mode is Herb’s primary inspiration — always has been — and he uses space between the notes in similar ways, but always with his own tone and distinct phrasing. Two old favorites from the TJB days, “A Taste of Honey” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” are revisited; “Taste” is completely transformed into a dark elegy that breaks into the light before turning back to the shadows. One track, “Friends,” was left over from 1990, where Herb was joined by a luminous-sounding Getz; they really play like intimate friends together. This is not a terribly spontaneous album — Alpert is too much the master of structure to leave very much to chance — but it creates a mood of melancholy serenity that is difficult to resist.
Original Release Date: 2009
Re-issue Date: 2016
Herb Alpert had never really embraced his inner jazzman over the course of an entire album before; the closest he came was 1992’s Midnight Sun, ultimately a highly controlled cocoon of a recording. But this, at long last, is it, and it represents a string of firsts for the protean trumpeter — his first truly straight-ahead jazz project, his first all-new album of any kind in ten years, his first complete album with his wife, singer Lani Hall (who gets co-billing), and his first released by a label which he did not co-own. The concept grew out of a series of live dates that he and Hall played in various cities, from which these tracks were assembled. Despite some apparent lightly applied overdubs, it remains an intimate small group album of mostly standards, the kind of thing one might run across at Vibrato — Alpert‘s jazz club in the hills above Los Angeles. Hall appears in tandem with Alpert on nine of the 14 tracks — with Alpert taking five for himself — which guarantees an additional unique layer of intimacy as Alpert wraps his pithy horn lovingly around Hall‘s voice. Hall has kept her Portuguese in gear, doing well by Ivan Lins‘ “Dinorah, Dinorah” and the rapid-fire syllables of “Para-Raio.” She adopts a dark, dusky tone on “That Old Black Magic,” and for “Let’s Face the Music And Dance,” she takes on an air of desperation, focusing on the words, “there may be trouble ahead.” Still in good shape in his seventies, Alpert retains the marcato bravado of the Tijuana Brass days and the more recent, terse, moody, muted tones of a Miles acolyte; in “It’s Only a Paper Moon,” these two personas go mano a mano rather humorously. “The Trolley Song,” done at an unusually lazy, loping pace by the Tijuana Brass more than four decades before, is taken at a more traditionally quick, Latin-accented tempo here, and this is the third time around for “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” — now a casual vocal showcase for Alpert with a witty coda that sneaks in a horn lick from “This Guy’s in Love with You.” The adept backup trio of Bill Cantos on keyboards — who comes up with a few nifty quotes himself — Hussain Jiffry on electric bass, and Michael Shapiro on drums and Latin percussion goes down agreeably. This is a classy, welcome return to album-making for Alpert, and a good fit for Concord’s adult-oriented roster.
Original Release Date: 2011
Re-issue Date: 2016
Trumpeter Herb Alpert and vocalist and wife Lani Hall teamed as a duo for the critically acclaimed live recording Anything Goes in 2009. I Feel You is the studio follow-up to that fine recording, and the contrasts between the two are marked. While the former album reflected new takes on the jazz canon, this one delves into rock, pop, jazz, and Brazilian tunes and interprets them with a contemporary international feel, without leaving jazz behind. Backed by their touring group — pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, drummer/percussionist Michael Shapiro, and bassist Hussain Jiffry — Alpert and Hall commence with a reading of Van Morrison‘s “Moondance” that is as influenced by Arabic modalism as it is the nocturnal bop-noir inherent in its melody. Led by a fretless bassline and shakers, Alpert runs through the lyric on muted trumpet. The pair begins singing together, over a minute in as the piano enters the fray and shakers are complemented by hand drums. “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” is a showcase for Hall‘s trademark phrasing and Alpert‘s jazz-wise improvisation on a Caribbean-based rhythm. It’s languid, lovely, and, in its gentle way, it pops thanks to the rhythm section. Other highlights here include the Brazilian-flavored tunes: “There Will Never Be Another You” (even with Alpert‘s reedy vocals), “Berimbau,” “The Corner (Clube’ de Esquina),” and “Viola.” Hall‘s vocals — which are still in top form — and Alpert‘s playing complement one another symbiotically (especially on the latter tune). The reading of “Here Comes the Sun” is radical. It’s double-timed by Shapiro’s snare and painted by Cantos‘ Rhodes piano with an alternate melody played by Jiffry‘s electric bass while Alpert and Hall hold down the original melody (trumpet and vocal) in the quiet storm. Likewise, “Blackbird” is performed as a funky modern jazz number with smooth samba overtones. The African drumming on “What Now My Love,” with Alpert‘s clipped (and slightly reverbed) phrasing on the melody transforms the tune. The reading of “Call Me” (which he produced for Chris Montez in 1965) is reinvented here as a lithe, syncopated romantic groover. Less successful is “Fever,” because its center isn’t in the vocal or trumpet but in the rhythm section’s interplay. That quibble aside, I Feel You is an excellent contemporary jazz recording by a veteran duo whose intuition is nearly flawless.
Trumpeter and pop music icon Herb Alpert and his wife, former Brasil ’66 vocalist Lani Hall, have recorded and performed together a few times since meeting over 43 years ago. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the duo began touring and performing regularly. In 2009, they released the album Anything Goes, which found them interpreting standards and Brazilian music. They followed that album up with 2011’s I Feel You, which continued in the jazz, Brazilian, and Latin music vein, adding in more contemporary pop songs. Alpert and Hall‘s 2013 release, Steppin’ Out, also features a warm collection of songs that hit upon all the stylistic touchstones of their careers, from ’60s novelty instrumentals to Latin music, Brazilian bossa nova, smooth jazz, and American popular song standards. Once again joining Alpert and Hall here is their touring ensemble featuring pianist/keyboardist Bill Cantos, drummer/percussionist Michael Shapiro, and bassist Hussain Jiffry. Steppin’ Out also reunites Alpert with keyboardist Jeff Lorber, who appeared on Alpert‘s 1997 album, Passion Dance, and who produced his 1996 album, Second Wind. Generally speaking, Steppin’ Out is the most stylistically varied of the three Alpert/Hall albums, moving from an electronic/dance reworking of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to the atmospheric orchestral ballad “I Only Have Eyes for You,” Hall‘s poignant interpretation of Irving Berlin‘s “What’ll I Do?,” a dramatic symphonic take on Astor Piazzolla‘s 1982 nuevo tango masterpiece “Oblivion,” and the smooth funk of the Alpert/Lorber original “Migration.” The album even ends with Alpert revisiting his 1963 Tijuana Brass breakthrough hit “The Lonely Bull,” this time with additional orchestral and electronic flourishes that sound less ’60s lounge pad and more contemporary James Bond action movie theme, accented by Alpert‘s Miles Davis-influenced soloing. Ultimately, Steppin’ Out represents not just the third album in a trilogy, but a loving creative partnership that, for Alpert and Hall, spans a lifetime.
Although trumpeter and pop icon Herb Alpert is largely associated with his jazz, Latin, and lounge instrumentals of the ’60s and ’70s, he’s never fully retired from the music scene. In fact, Alpert‘s 2013 album with wife and vocalist Lani Hall won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Coming on the heels of that album, Alpert‘s 2014 effort, In the Mood, finds the stylistically wide-ranging artist once again bringing together a mix of jazz standards, smooth pop instrumentals, and infectious original compositions. Working with his nephew, arranger/producer Randy Badazz Alpert, as well as such longtime collaborators as Bill Conti, Mike Shapiro, and Jeff Lorber, Alpert has crafted an album that perfectly updates his approach for a modern audience. Alpert was an early adopter of electronic sounds and In the Mood is no exception as it features a very club-ready, EMD reworking of the swing-era classic “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” It’s an iconoclastic move also echoed in his funky, hip-hop-inflected take on “Blue Moon.” While Alpert always seems to be in search of new musical ground to explore, he’s conversely never afraid to revisit his past, as evidenced by his electronic- and contemporary R&B-infused arrangement of his old Tijuana Brass number “Spanish Harlem.” Elsewhere, Alpert teams again with Hall for several gorgeous, laid-back Latin numbers including the funky “Don’t Cry,” and the romantic “5 A.M.” And it’s not just Alpert‘s knack for crafting listenable, relaxing pop songs that makes In the Mood so enjoyable. Arguably, Alpert‘s trumpet playing has only deepened over the years and cuts here, like his poignant orchestral reading of “When Sunny Gets Blue,” reveal his gift for small group jazz balladry that brings to mind a mix of Chet Baker and Harry Sweets Edison. Ultimately, whether he’s digging deep into a jazz standard, or defying expectations with a breezy electronic arrangement, Alpert proves yet again he is a true pop journeyman on In the Mood.
Since his 2009 return to regular recording after a ten-year hiatus, trumpeter Herb Alpert has stayed busy releasing albums, some with his wife, vocalist Lani Hall, and others, like 2015’s Come Fly with Me, on his own. 80 years old at the time of this release, Alpert has gone from instrumental pop icon of the ’60s and ’70s to journeyman performer with decades of experience to draw from. Working with a bevy of longtime collaborators including his nephew, programmer Randy “Badazz” Alpert, bassist/guitarist/producer Hussain Jiffry, keyboardist/producer Bill Cantos, keyboardist/guitarist Jeff Lorber, Alpert has crafted a breezy, low-key collection of originals and cover tunes, that nonetheless retains all of the melodic, jazz-inflected style of his classic recordings. Although Alpert takes on a handful of standards here, he approaches them with a creative sense of fun. To these ends, he reworks the classic Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen title track into a Day-Glo, Brazilian bossa nova production. Similarly, on Irving Berlin‘s “Blue Skies,” Alpert‘s supple trumpet is framed by lush orchestral strings that give way to a laid-back reggae groove accented by vibrato-soaked, Beatles-esque guitar hits. And it’s not just Broadway standards that benefit from the Alpertization process — the Beatles influence pops up again, this time with his stripped-down, ethereal take on the band’s 1969 classic “Something.” One of the most interesting and effective transformations here is Alpert‘s R&B style overhaul of “I’ve Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do,” from the musical Bye Bye Birdie. Kicking off with an introspective keyboard figure, the song sounds like something along the lines of Miles Davis covering a yearning ’90s soul ballad. As with most all of Alpert‘s post-2009 material, Come Fly with Me is a much more low-key and intimate recording than the productions that marked the best of his ’60s Tijuana Brass period. That said, by keeping things simple, Alpert and his collaborators illuminate all of the tenderness and direct lyricism of his horn playing.
Release Date: 2016
Legendary pop and jazz icon Herb Alpert continues his prolific career run with his 2016 studio album, Human Nature. The album follows up his well-received 2014 effort, In the Mood, and picks up on that album’s mix of electronic pop and Latin-inflected, dance-oriented grooves. In his eighties at the time of recording, he has aged into a soulful, lyrical musician able to bridge the light pop stylings of his youth with more introspective choices. Human Nature finds him completely engaged, continuing to explore new sounds and songs. Joining Alpert here are several longtime collaborators in producer/percussionist Michael Shapiro, producer/arranger/keyboardist Eduardo Del Barrio, bassist/guitarist Hussain Jiffry, keyboardist/arranger/producer Bill Cantos, and others. As with Alpert‘s other albums since coming out of a ten-year hiatus in 2009, Human Nature finds the trumpeter applying his distinctively sweet-toned sound to a nicely balanced combination of beloved pop standards, unexpected covers, and originals. Sometimes, as on the title track, an inspired Brazilian Mardi Gras-infused reworking of Michael Jackson‘s “Human Nature,” Alpert goes for an inventive cross-genre angle. Other times, as on his lush, romantic reading of the Burt Bacharach/Elvis Costello-ballad “Look Up Again,” he takes a more straightforward approach, framing his yearning Miles Davis–esque lines with reverb-soaked piano and shimmering orchestral strings. Alpert even draws upon his iconic Tijuana Brass double-tracked trumpet sound for a bright, electro-Latin take on the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” which also features vocals from his wife, muse, and frequent collaborator Lani Hall. Elsewhere, Alpert strikes a similarly pleasant, cross-genre stance with his originals, like the disco-salsa “Shake It” and the sophisticated, cocktail hour-ready Latin jazz of “Mystery Man.” Ultimately, Human Nature is a warmly produced album by an artist who has seen and done it all, and yet still finds magic and mystery in the process.