Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass-Part 2

In late 1969, Herb dissolved the Tijuana Brass. It had been an amazing ride for 7 years, but he wanted to try new projects and recharge the batteries. He got more involved with the running of A&M records, along with his partner Jerry Moss. He also did more recording but had no plans to reform the TJB. In 1970 Herb released a TJB Greatest Hits album.

Some of these recordings came out as the album Summertime, billed as a TJB album but more like a solo project with a modicum of TJB. The album has a laid back quality similar to Warm.

There are nice moments such as the title track, which has some elements of the Miles Davis and Ahmad Jamal recordings. Lani Hall's voice is also heard. She would eventually marry Herb and was the lead singer with Sergio Mendes' Brasil '66. (another popular A&M group).Other pleasant tracks are Martha My Dear (another Beatles cover), If You Could Read My Mind, Darlin' and Hurt So Bad, the latter more in the TJB style. Herb's composition, Jerusalem, is a very effective track. The album didn't do very well but is pleasant listening.

During 1971-4 Herb kept up his A&M duties and made some guest spots with A&M artists Rita Coolidge, Kris Krisstoferson and Lani Hall. Herb also released some new compilations, Solid Brass (1972) and Foursider (1973). By 1974 the old TJB juices were flowing again and he reformed the band.

This new band featured some of the old guard, Bob Edmondson, Julius Wechter, Nick Ceroli and John Pisano but also had some great new additions. Dave Frishberg, a talented jazz pianist and composer and Bob Findley, a busy studio trumpeter of great talent, joined up. This new band recorded a very interesting "comeback" album entitled You Smile-The Song Begins.

Highlights include an updating of Up Cherry Street in a dixieland vein featuring great stride piano from Frishberg. (He was very adept at trad and swing and a clever composer of tunes such as Dear Bix, I'm Hip, Van Lingle Mungo and My Attorney, Bernie). Herb and Lani sing a lovely duet, Save the Sunlight and Chuck Mangionnes's Legend of the One-Eyed Sailor is a perfect vehicle for Herb's haunting horn. Herb's composition Fox Hunt and I Can't Go on Living, Baby, without You are in the traditional TJB style. Gato Barbieri's theme to Last Tango in Paris is also very effective.(this had appeared in the Foursider compilation). Burt Bachrach's Promises, Promises made a nice showcase for Herb's horn. All in all, a good start for the new TJB.

In September of 1974, Herb and the Brass made an excellent TV special for the Sentry Company. The show also featured the Muppets and some of the tunes from You Smile and the upcoming Coney Island. Bob Findley got a nice workout on Panama, Herb and Lani did their lovely duet on Save the Sunlight and Lani soloed on Dave Frishberg's Wheelers and Dealers. From the You Smile album came Fox Hunt and One-Eyed Sailor and Herb did a nice tribute to Louis Armstrong, including the Kraft Music Hall clip of them singing Mame. The Muppets comedy was great and the only letdown was the closing vocal on I Belong, not one of Herb's better vocal tunes. (It would be on the new album). All in all, this was a wonderful show. YouTube has run parts of it, let's hope Herb or Sentry can release it on DVD soon. (It would be on the next album.)

That next album was Coney Island, one of Herb's best albums with the TJB and the most exciting since the halcyon days of Going Places! This new band had a lot of energy and more of a jazz feel. Herb also let Bob Findley loose, especially on Ratatouille and Carmine (dedicated to trumpet teacher Carmine Caruso). The title tune is a Dixie-flavored Wechter original. After years of being a studio-only player, Julius was finally a bona fide TJB member. Dave Frishberg gets to show off his trad chops on a cute samba-like The Crave by Jelly Roll Morton. Herb's horn is featured on a beautiful French ballad, Mickey, and the Brass give their unique take on the Carpenters' This Masquerade and Rodgers and Hammerstein's I Have Dreamed.

This is an excellent album and deserves reissue. Around the same time, I spotted Herb and the Brass on TV(perhaps Dinah Shore?) doing a great version of Somewhere from West Side Story featuring some great piccolo trumpet by Bob Findley. (Hope Herb recorded this one). An excellent single, El Bimbo, also came out at this time. It had a disco feel but a lot of the earlier Mariachi sound, too.

The band also appeared on the Midnight Special TV show. Unfortunately Herb soon dissolved this group and went back to solo projects and A&M duties. This was his most ambitious and musical group.

The next series of albums were primarily solo projects. Just You and Me (1976) was a rather dull album of Alpert originals except a unique version of Yankee Doodle. (This was the Bicentennial year).

Herb's next musical project was with the great African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela. Hugh had a big instrumental hit, Grazin' in the Grass, in the '60s and was recording for A&M.

The initial Herb Alpert and Hugh Masekela (1978) features Herb's trumpet and Hugh's flugelhorn on some spirited African-inspired melodies including the popular Skokian and originals African Summer and I'll Be There for You. The two horns mesh nicely in a pleasant if not spectacular album. The duo followed this album with a Main Event Live session recorded at various concerts. Highlights include the favorite Besame Mucho and People Make the World Go Round. Herb's next album would put him back on the charts after a long absence.

In 1979 a tune written by Herb's nephew, Randy Badazz, along with Andy Armer was brought to Herb's attention. It was Rise, a disco-flavored tune with a bit of the mariachi sound. This haunting, pulsating selection was a natural for Herb and it quickly made it to the charts , staying on the Billboard Top 100 for 2 weeks. It was also used as a recurring theme on General Hospital's story lines of the period. The followup Rise album is similar in style and has a standout track in Aranjuez, giving the Rodrigo piece a mix of disco and mariachi. The next albums would be in the same Rise style as Herb searched for another hit.

Beyond (1980) is one of Herb's lesser albums. The title track and Earth,Wind and Fire's Way of the World are the only bright spots on another Rise-clone. The Peter Frampton composition, The Factory, has to be one of Herb's biggest mistakes. It is an irritating, repetitious riff that goes on forever. Magic Man (1981) is similar in style, but a little easier to take. You Smile is updated, along with the favorite Besame Mucho. Julius Wechter is also on some tracks.

Herb's next album, Fandango (1982) is one of his best solo albums. The theme was a return to the Latin American sounds of the earlier LPs, in tribute to the 2oth anniversary of Herb's bullfight experience. Arranger Juan Carlos Calderon and co-producer Jose Quintana played an active part in the production along with Herb. The track California Blues had a lot of Herb's early mariachi style. Route 101, a breezy, rhythmic track, enjoyed some time on the charts. Herb sings Love Me the Way I Am in Spanish and sounds very comfortable. (His mom was Mexican.) A closing medley of Latin favorites including Frenesi and Bahia make this a very worthwhile effort. We hope it will be released on CD in the near future.

The next album Blow Your Own Horn (1983) was another average Rise-like LP with a very sexy cover shot of Herb. (He always cut a handsome figure) for the ladies. The good news was that we would have another TJB reunion coming up.

In 1984 Herb got the TJB back for some touring and a new album. Old hands Edmondson, Wechter, Ceroli and Pisano were back along with Bob Findley and his trumpeter brother, Chuck, another busy studio player. The new album Bullish was a bit disappointing. The title track had a Rise-like mix of mariachi and disco and Lani sang a nice cover of Maniac, but most of the tracks were rather similar and dull. The new band did some touring. I still have a Boston Globe review of a August 31 concert at Boston Common. (Jim Carey was the opening act!). Herb and the band were lauded for their musicianship and a medley took care of all the hits. Make a Wish, Fandango and Bullish were played from the recent repertoire. Herb reprieved This Guy's in Love and Lani did a medley of her Brasil '66 hits. Sounds like a great show.

That summer the band appeared on a syndicated variety show, On Stage America. Along with the live segment, Herb taped a profile/interview with co-host Susie Coelho, including many great clips. The band performed Bullish and Tijuana Taxi although they were lip syncing. Herb and Lani sang a lovely duet, Come what May, from one of Lani's solo albums. Julius, Nick and Bob seemed to be having a ball as was Herb.

Herb and the band also did two spots on Solid Gold playing Rise and This Guy's in Love again lip synced. These shows were a countdown of top 100 hits. Shortly after,Herb disbanded again and would be back to solo projects for quite a while.

Wild Romance (1985) was the next release. It was a pleasant but predictable album. The next album, Keep Your Eye on Me (1987) was quite radical and more in the hip-hop vein with contributions from Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The tune, Diamonds, got some chart activity and Herb and Lani did a mellow duet on Pillow. This album is not for traditional TJB listeners.

Under a Spanish Moon (1988) was a return to the Latin/Spanish sounds of Fandango. The title tune was an ambitious 3-part suite with orchestral background. Another highlight was Fragile, a composition by Sting. My Abstract Heart (1989) was a jazz project with the great trumpeter and arranger Shorty Rogers. Shorty had done some previous arranging for Herb. The big band backings complement Herb's horn and he and Lani duet on When lights Go Down Low--not the Benny Carter composition. North on South Street (1991) was more in the hip-hop vein again. Eddie DelBarrio co-produced this album. Unfortunately, it was not popular with Herb's fans.

The next album, Midnight Sun (1992), was a welcome return to jazz. Stan Getz, a good friend of Herb's plays on Friends recorded in 1990. Standards such as My Foolish Heart, Someone to Watch over Me (a nice Herb vocal), Mona Lisa and Wee Small Hours are given Herb's wistful touch. Herb also updated his classic, A Taste of Honey. Herb got nice support from John Pisano, Monty Budwig(bass) andFrank Collette(piano), Eddie delBarrio did some of the arranging. Herb also appeared on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno to promote the release. He and bandleader, Brandford Marsalis, teamed up on Taste of Honey and Herb sang Someone to Watch over Me with a small string section. His rendition was very Chet Baker-ish.

In 1992 Herb and Jerry Moss sold A&M to Polygram. Their next releases were on the new Almo Sounds label. Second Wind (1996) is a light jazz collaboration with keyboard player Jeff Lorber. Included was a redo of Flamingo. Passion Dance (1997), co-produced by Oskar Cartaya, got into the modern Latin and salsa styles, . Herb gave us a new version of Route 101. Colors (1999) saw more smooth jazz and Latin with a redo of Magic Man and Lani revisiting The Look of Love.

The new century saw Herb getting involved in painting and setting up an endowment for the arts, The Herb Alpert Foundation. He also guested on recordings with Lani, Gato Barbieri, Ry Cooder and Rita Coolidge. One of Herb's major endeavors was to bring the classic TJB albums to CD. A label called Shout Factory did the distribution. The packaging and artwork were first class, although 2 LPs could easily fit on a disc. The albums Vol.2, Warm and Brass Are Comin' were issued only on iTunes. All the other LPs, including Christmas Album, are available.

Herb also issued a terrific compilation titled Lost Treasures, featuring many unreleased TJB sides. Four sides came from You Smile-The Song Begins, but everything else was new to disc. Highlights include covers of Fire and Rain, And I Love Her, Killing me Softly and I'll Never Fall in Love again. There's a great shuffle version of Tennesee Waltz, a breezy Flowers on the Wall and Herb's vocal on Close to You recorded before the Carpenters' version. Let's hope Herb gives a Vol.2 of Lost Treasures. I'd love to get El Bimbo on disc.

Herb also did a new disc called Whipped Cream-Remixed where he did new trumpet solos to the albums' tunes as played by contemporary artists. The best news is that in 2008, Herb and Lani started touring again in a show featuring Latin jazz and standards, backed by a first class rhythm section. I missed them when they played Boston (the show was sold out-a testament to Herb's staying power), but YouTube clips show them both looking great and sounding wonderful. Herb's horn is still strong and mellow and Lani's beautiful, pure tones are unchanged. In 2009 Concord Jazz released a new CD, Anything Goes, consisting of tracks recorded at various concert venues. Herb and Lani sound fantastic. Let's hope there will more to come.

Entering his 75th year, let's hope Herb is blessed with good health, more gigs and CDs. He is one of the treasures of American Popular Music.

Ole, Senor Alpert!

Addendum- In 2011 Herb and Lani released a second Concord CD, I Feel You. The disc includes new takes on favorites such as Cast Your Fate to the Wind, Fever, Never be Another You, Here Comes the Sun, Till there was You,What now my Love and Call Me.
Herb was the subject of an exellent profile on CBS' Sunday Morning in Feb. 2011 (and rebroadcast in June). His career and curent musical and philanthropic activities were highlighted.


Michael said...
a tribute in loving memory of Legendary Jazz Drummer (the late) Nick Ceroli & his only son Michael.
peace & love,
# 1 Ceroli Fan

Akil said...

Hi. Do you have any idea if this song is made by Herb??

I have been looking for ages for the artist of this tune..