There was nothing campy or kitschy about Herb Alpert’s local appearance this week, and in a way that’s a shame. Alpert is seldom mentioned in the same breath as the Beach Boys, the Supremes, or the Rolling Stones, though his Tijuana Brass outsold them all in the ’60s. (Only Elvis, Sinatra, and the Beatles outsold Alpert.) And a recent reissue series proved the Tijuana Brass catalogue to be full of clever writing and sly humor, bachelor-pad swank of the first order.
Now 73, Alpert has made more than enough money for a cozy retirement (he co-founded A&M Records); these days he seldom tours or records. His sold-out Scullers show seemed to be full of people in the same boat, or maybe the same yacht: an older crowd in upscale-casual dress who appeared to be ordering nothing but white wine and brandy from the bar. These weren’t the ’60s obsessives who pack the oldies shows or the retro-hipsters who’ve picked up on Tijuana Brass reissues like The Lonely Bull and Whipped Cream & Other Delights. So nobody complained much when Alpert played a show that virtually ignored the Tijuana catalogue. Save for a muted take on “A Taste of Honey” and brief quotes from a few other hits, the set was devoted to Brazilian pop and pre-rock standards.
It was as much a vehicle for Alpert’s wife, former Brasil ’66 frontwoman Lani Hall — though her hits, “Mas Que Nada” and the Beatles’ “Fool on the Hill,” weren’t done either. Alpert announced early on that they’d conceived the tour while on vacation in Hawaii, and that set the breezy tone of the evening. He solo’d with quiet elegance while never venturing too far from the melodies — a lightly funkafied “Bésame Mucho” was as modern as it got. Things got sultry only when Hall took on Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance,” a coy, flirtatious number (it was written for Fred Astaire in Follow the Fleet) that she made sound more like a forceful come-on. “And I get to see her in the shower every morning,” Alpert noted afterward. It was clear the audience appreciated the intimation of later-life passion as much as it had the music.
: Live Reviews
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