Legendary Horn Player Herb Alpert at MGM Northfield Park
October 21st, 2019
When I was a youngster, my dad would spin records from bands and eras of music long past. A veteran of the Second World War, my father had his own Swing band in the late 1940s and early 1950s that broadcast live on WEOL in Elyria, Ohio every Saturday night from the now-deceased Crystal Ballroom in Vermilion, Ohio. He was a fairly well-known guitarist and frontman who relived the halcyon days of his youth at the family stereo. He never played Rock (although he did have a fascination with both Christopher Cross and Neil Diamond, which remains unexplainable to me, but perhaps explains my love for both of those artists), but the closest he came to more "contemporary" music was the once-a-month spin of some Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.
I'll admit, I hated Swing music. Anything related to Glenn Miller, the Dorsey Brothers, Stan Heath, et al, was poison to me because I was forced to listen to it ad nauseum through most of my childhood. My dad died when I was seventeen, at the ripe old age of 58. A few years later I picked up a Telarc recording of some Big Band music mainly as a lark and, you know what? It was pretty damn good. Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" really blew me away; it was, in my opinion, the first Metal tune I could remember hearing.
So, as I approach the age that my father died, I've hopefully been able to digest many new forms of music and other forms of popular culture. Some I've grown to love, some I've learned to respect, and others (German Industrial Music, anyone?) have sampled but decided, much like Okra, the nastiest of vegetables, that I either don't understand them or just plain don't like them. David Lynch? You're on that list...
So when I got an email from the publicist stating that Herb Alpert and his wife Lani Hall would be performing at the MGM Northfield Park, I knew I had to give this one a shot. This year has been a deliberate attempt to see, cover, and photograph bands that I've never seen, covered or photographed before, so it fit right in with my leit motif of the last ten months.
And what can I say? At a spry 84 years old, the tone accompanying Mr. Alpert's trumpet and geriatric lungs was both impeccable and supremely satisfying. His stage presence is fantastic. What is it about these "legacy acts" that keep us coming back over and over again? That's an easy one: Pure talent.
In an era of auto-tuned nightmares, spectacle acts, and DJs passing as "talented" musicians, it's always a treat to see someone (or in this case, a husband-wife duo) who can entertain with a simple stripped-down stage set, a crackerjack backup band (consisting of piano, drums and bass)while the richness of a time-worn composition and a horn player that can do it in his sleep, can keep an audience riveted from the first strains of the opening tune up until the encore a scant ninety minutes later.
Offering such classic songs as "Moondance," albeit with a different arrangement than Van Morrison gave us, "Fly Me to the Moon," and "I've Got You Under My Skin," these are songs that we've all heard a million times. But, Alpert's horn makes them fresh. His wife of forty-five years, Lani Hall, took up vocal duties on these and even a medley of tunes from her tenure with Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, the group she worked with prior to meeting her future husband. Interestingly, Alpert was a co-founder of A&M Records, who signed Sergio Mendes. It was there that Alpert met Hall, and they were married a few years later, in 1973.
Prior to his gig at the Kent Stage two years ago, Alpert and company hadn't performed in northeast Ohio since 1976. It was a treat, an honest-to-goodness treat to have a performer of his caliber at the MGM's Center Stage.
I hope he comes back, as he promised at the tail end of the show. I smiled as I walked to my car last night, thinking that yep, my dad was right about a lot of things, musically-speaking at least. And he sure would've liked last night's show.
Photos and Review by Brian M. Lumley