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Mutton, beef and trout

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Nathan Strum


After being delayed for several months, Herb Alpert's new album - Anything Goes (featuring his wife - Lani Hall) is finally here!




Recorded live during a brief tour last year, this is Herb's most jazz-centric album since 1992's Midnight Sun (currently out-of-print, unfortunately). There's nary a trace of the Tijuana Brass years here, and yet Herb's playing is as instantly identifiable as ever, as is Lani's singing (in case you're unfamiliar, she was the lead vocalist for Sérgio Mendes's Brasil '66).


Anything Goes is mostly a collection of standards, but they're treated in Herb and Lani's own unique style, so while certainly respectful to the originals, they aren't merely retreads of something done before. Lani sings a couple of numbers in Portuguese (sadly, no translation was included in the booklet), and there a couple of original compositions by the band's pianist - Bill Cantos. Yet despite the variety of material, the whole album has a very cohesive feel to it. The musicians are all first-rate and blend together as if they've been playing together for years. What's rather amazing is that Herb and Lani have rarely collaborated musically, and yet they mesh together effortlessly, and the result is an intimacy to the music that's really a delight to listen to. There's romance, humor, and such a strong connection between them, that there's a real sense that everyone involved is just thoroughly enjoying the music - and it's contagious. I find myself enjoying this album the more I listen to it, and at times almost feel like I'm sitting in the room with them.


Lani's voice doesn't sound like she's aged a day, and Herb's playing (at 74!) is equally timeless. Lani has a terrific voice, from handling the rapid-fire lyrics of

to the sultriness of Anything Goes, from the playfulness of Morning Coffee to the wistfulness of Who Are You?, she shows an amazing breadth of talent and expressiveness. Herb's improvisational skills have always been, in my opinion, highly underrated, and he excels here. His identity as a trumpet player is completely his own - there's nobody else that sounds or plays like him. The word "effortless" comes to mind again, as he weaves in and out of the melodies and improvisations. He's never flashy or showy, but thoughtful - making every note count in much the way that Louis Armstrong would. If I had a least-favorite track on the album, it would probably be The Trolley Song, where the cloth mute Herb is using oddly muffles the sound. Elsewhere though, Herb makes very effective use of a Harmon mute (which makes a soft, "buzzing" sound) on a number of tracks, including on
, where he uses a specially built double-belled trumpet nicknamed "The Mutant" to switch between an open bell and the mute with the flick of a rotary valve. The net effect is that it almost sounds like he's playing both parts of a duet. My favorite track though is the closer - Laura. Besides it's inherently beautiful melody, this arrangement is a joy to listen to as it changes tempos, moods, and gives Herb and the band a chance to really showcase their playing. It's a great way to end a live show, and this CD.


Herb and Lani are touring again this year, playing with the same group and performing many of the songs from this album. I missed the chance to see them in concert last time around. I won't make that mistake again.


Herb has always made the music that he wanted to make. Sometimes to the chagrin of die-hard Tijuana Brass fans who'd rather listen to "A Taste of Honey" for the six-thousandth time, than be challenged by or treated to something musically new and different. But that's their loss. I haven't been a fan of everything Herb has released, but I always look forward to his next album because I know it's never going to be the same thing he did that last time. And while I'll admit sometimes I wish he'd do more of one thing or less of another, I admire and respect his willingness to go out on a limb and create something simply because he wants to.


This is an excellent album, an excellent jazz album, and yet another re-invention of Herb Alpert as an artist. Never one to sit still or live in the past, his musical stylings have changed radically over the years from the Tijuana Brass years, to disco, funk, R&B, orchestral, latin, pop, easy listening... and yet underneath it all, has always been Alpert's first musical love - jazz. Here, he unabashedly gets to celebrate his love of jazz, his love of his wife, and the joy of working together with the both of them.


Track listing:


Fascinating Rhythm

Para-Raio (Pah-dah-hi-yoo)

The Trolley Song

That Old Black Magic

Dinorah (Gee-no-rah)/Morning

It's Only A Paper Moon

Let's Face The Music And Dance

Morning Coffee

I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face

Who Are You?

Besame Mucho

Anything Goes*

I've Got You Under My Skin



Anything Goes gets a 9.5/10

(It would've gotten a 10, but apparently the Japanese release gets a bonus track that we're denied!)


Here's a promotional video for the album:




*Note: The title track is some obscure version by a guy named "Cole Porter" , rather than

we're all more familiar with. ;)
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