By Don Heckman
Renaissance Man is a label that’s been associated with Herb Alpert’s diverse career for years. And with good reason. How better to accurately describe Alpert’s mastery of skills reaching from the deep, often dark, complexities of the music business to his imaginative accomplishments as trumpeter, song writer, composer, band leader, producer, philanthropist and more.
To top off Alpert’s authentic ownership of the Renaissance Man label, he has thoroughly established himself as a painter and sculptor, whose abstract expressionist works have been praised in exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe. (and can be seen on the walls of his Los Angeles jazz club, Vibrato Grill Jazz…etc.)
Despite his creative diversity, music– in many respects — has always been a primary factor in Alpert’s art, heard at its best when expressed via his jazz roots.
Come Fly With Me, released last summer, is a briskly swinging opportunity to experience the latest release in Alpert’s huge catalog of albums reaching back to the sixties and the chart topping recordings of Tijuana Brass.
As usual, he has assembled a stellar group of players., some who have been with Alpert for years. Among the ensemble are: keyboardists Jeff Lorber, Bill Cantos and Jamieson Trotter; bassist Hussain Jiffry; percussionists Michael Shapiro and Dorrell Salmon; Saxophonist/flutist Scott Mayo; guitarist Marcel Camargo; with an array of audio programming by Eduardo Del Barrio and Randy “Badazz” Alpert.
The program is half and half – in part originals written by Alpert with various band members. The remainder consisting of Great American Songbook classics including the album title song, “Blue Skies,” “Take the A Train,” “ Sweet and Lovely,” and the Beatles’ “Something.”
At the center of it all, Alpert’s improvisational skills find the creative essence of each tune, swinging hard on some, laying back on others. Occasionally he encourages the players to join him in collective rhythmic grooves, at other times directs them into the spotlight.
At 81, Alpert’s warm trumpet tone, crisp swing and inventive phrasing reflect the dedicated musicianship of a player determined to keep his skills vividly alive.
I’ve been reviewing Alpert’s performances and recordings since the sixties. And he’s never offered any less than a memorable experience. So don’t overlook a rare opportunity to hear this unique Renaissance man at his best.
If you happen to be in Manhattan right now, Alpert and his wife Lani Hall are sharing their joie de vivre at the Café Carlyle on East 76th Street until June 11.
Photo by Faith Frenz