Herb Alpert & Lani Hall

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Herb Alpert and Lani Hall

Café Carlyle, NYC, May 31, 2016

Review by Marilyn Lester for Cabaret Scenes

Herb-Alpert-Lani-Hall-Cabaret-Scenes-Magazine_212When an insanely multi-talented legend of music appears on stage with his equally esteemed and multi-talented spouse—not to mention three similarly endued side men—it’s probably a good bet that magic will happen. Indeed it did when trumpeter Herb Alpert and vocalist Lani Hall produced sounds of sheer enchantment true to their jazz and Latin roots. Samba was well represented with Alpert’s Tijuana Brass hit, the opener, “Bittersweet Samba. Later, he played a medley of his group’s well-known numbers, including “Spanish Flea” and “A Taste of Honey. At age 81, with just a teeny diminishment of power, Alpert can still blow, with dexterous fingering and overall artistry in fine form.

Never a screamer on the horn, he seems to have settled into a mellow sound, using the mute on all but a few numbers. He also played a smooth “Fly Me to the Moon,” a delicate ”Something” (dedicated to its songwriter, George Harrison), and brassier takes on “On the Sunny Side of the Street” and “Begin the Beguine”/”I’ve Got You Under My Skin.

Hall has maintained her silky tone and beautiful voice control, as well as her ability to sing with agility in Spanish and the very challenging Portuguese. In the former, she offered an impassioned “Besame Mucho” and in the latter a fanciful “O Pato” (“The Duck”). She also performed some of the hits she made famous with Sérgio Mendes and Brazil ’66, including “Mas Que Nada,” “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill.” Notable too during the evening were her thoughtful and tailored renditions of  “Fever,” “Up on the Roof” and “Never Never Land. Interestingly, Hall seemed most at home with an Antônio Carlos Jobim medley that included “The Waters of March,” “Corcovado” (English lyrics: Gene Lees) and “The Girl form Ipanema” (lyrics: Vinicius de Moraes/Norman Gimbel).

The chemistry among Hall and Alpert and musicians (they’ve all been working together for about a decade) is delightful. The music flowed flawlessly between and among them, with Alpert proving to be a laid back, charming and witty host, interacting easily with his audience. About his very big hit “This Guy’s in Love with You,” for instance, he bantered he’d only sing it if the audience joined in too—and, of course, everyone did. The end-result of the evening was a smoothly crafted and seemingly organic show delightful and satisfying in every way.

Keyboard wizard Bill Cantos (ironically reminiscent of Sérgio Mendes) proved a skilled jazz vocalist too, easily scatting samba style as well as singing on a jazzy, spirited, fun version of  “Puttin’ on the Ritz. He also added his voice to the show’s finale (dedicated to the Big Apple) “How About You.” Rounding out the extraordinary musicianship were bassist Hussain Jiffry and drummer/percussionist, Michael Shapiro, who excelled with some clever stick work on the Latin rhythms.

Alpert and Hall continue at Café Carlyle through June 11.

Marilyn Lester

Marilyn Lester left journalism and commercial writing behind nearly two decades ago to write plays. That branch in the road led to screenwriting, script-doctoring, dramaturgy and producing for the stage. Marilyn has also co-authored, as well as edited, books. It seemed the only world of words she hadn’t conquered was criticism, an opportunity that presented itself via Theater Pizzazz. Marilyn has since sought to widen her scope in this form of writing she especially relishes. Marilyn is a member of the Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild, Women in the Arts and Media and The League of Professional Theater Women.