Herb Alpert, Lani Hall put intimate twist on jazz, pop classics at Birchmere
The Birchmere extended Valentine's Day to Wednesday night as veteran trumpeter Herb Alpert and his wife, vocalist Lani Hall, beguiled a packed house with a set of amorous classics.
With material culled from their recently released disc, "I Feel You," and 2009's "Anything Goes," the concert showcased their encyclopedic knowledge of music, ranging from American standards to Brazilian pop. The couple has been married since 1974 and the simpatico between the two was undeniable.
Complemented by their highly versatile band - pianist Bill Cantos, bassist Hussain Jiffry, and drummer and percussionist Michael Shapiro - Alpert and Hall balanced jazz-inspired reflexes with pop showmanship. Hall, who spent five years singing lead for Sergio Mendes's Brasil '66, sparkled on such Brazilian pop classics as Jose Carlos Capinan and Edu Lobo's "Viola (Viola Fora de Moda)" and lent them her infallible sense of rhythm, impeccable diction and flickering sensuality. Her rich alto soared on Van Morrison's "Moondance," Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance" and Peggy Lee's megahit "Fever."
While Alpert has never marketed himself as a bona fide jazz trumpeter, he nevertheless exhibited a jazz intuition. As a trumpeter, he kept his melodic phrases economical but embellished them with subtle improvisational runs. When he plugged his horn with a Harmon mute, his playing recalled Miles Davis. Other times, Alpert infused a flamenco flare that served him well as the couple revisited a batch of Tijuana Brass hits such as "A Taste of Honey," "Whipped Cream" and his late-'70s R&B-disco hit, "Rise."
For all of Alpert and Hall's amicable repartee with the enthusiastic audience, it's a testament to their elegance that they never tried to oversell their performances with embarrassing nods to hip-hop, callow virtuosity or cringe-inducing "lovers onstage" antics. They brought a genuine love and classiness to the material, which, in turn, set the romantic mood at the Birchmere.
Murph is a freelance writer.