Review: Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

Part of the joy of listening to really good jazz is the exciting spontaneity of improvisation. A rhythm that jumps out of nowhere, a melody that turns in an unexpected direction. In the cabaret show they are doing at the Cafe Carlyle, trumpeter Herb Alpert, his singer wife Lani Hall and the expert players behind them – the trio of Bill Cantos (piano), Hussain Jiffry (bass), Michael Shapiro (drums) – this thrilling spontaneity is on truly outlandish display.

I can’t overstate the impressive and exciting musicianship in this act. Alpert structures the songs in intricate ways that leave abundant room for improvisation. A rhythmic twist that starts in the drums finds its way to the bass and then into Alpert’s trumpet line – or the other way around! Herb and the band may play the same songs from night to night, but musically every performance is utterly different. Alpert is a breathtakingly soulful player, and Hall has that kind of liquid crystal voice that haunts songwriters’ dreams.

Alpert is most associated with his group the Tijuana Brass, and was also a recording industry executive – he is the “A” of A&M Records, which he founded with business partner Jerry Moss. Hall sang with A&M artist Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, most famously on their hit version of “Mas Que Nada”. In the act at the Carlyle they perform selections from Alpert’s latest album Come Fly with Me, as well as the two albums they’ve recently recorded together, plus medleys of Tijuana Brass and Brasil ’66 hits.

Really, this is pure musical pleasure. During a particularly frisky version of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin”, pianist Bill Cantos soared off into a vocal scat that mirrored his vigorous and playful improvisations on the keyboard. Stunning, and highly recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see

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