Herb Alpert

Live at Montreux 1996

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After a self-imposed hiatus from recording following the release of his first designated jazz album Midnight Sun -- and the sale of his A&M label to PolyGram -- Herb Alpert teamed up with smooth jazz keyboardist Jeff Lorber for yet another new sound. Second Wind was the first result of this brief collaboration, and this rare live gig at the 1996 Montreux Jazz Festival -- released ten years later on DVD -- was a belated second. It is musically superior to Second Wind -- livelier, funkier, in every way a better showcase for Alpert's looser, jazzier post-'80s trumpet and Lorber's own fluid synthesizer soloing. Each of the seven tunes reprised from Second Wind sound more lived-in, less mechanical, more musical. Alpert's signature timbre, his streak of melancholia, and canny use of space haven't changed much since his Tijuana Brass days. What was different at this point was his willingness to stretch out -- placing his terrific gift for melody in the service of jazz improvisation -- and his increasing fondness for playing swampy, pithy muted trumpet in subdued interludes. Alpert also revisits a number of tunes from the deep past, completely retooling "The Lonely Bull" to the Jeff Lorber Band soul/funk line, turning "A Taste of Honey" into an introspective jazz rumination on muted trumpet that assumes its familiar bravado only at the end. However, Alpert had not performed regularly in a long time; he seems shy and not too comfortable speaking to the audience, though he moves easily and gracefully to the grooves of the Lorber Band. Also, "Spanish Flea" twice breaks down; it may have been an off-the-cuff choice and Alpert apparently couldn't remember how the arrangement ended. The camera work is generic for a live music video, with plenty of slow-moving roving shots, extreme close-ups, and backed with excellent 5.1 surround sound. At this writing, this was the only Herb Alpert video on the market -- and as such, though it illustrates his deepening as a musician, it doesn't represent this performer at the time of his biggest influence and mass appeal. Perhaps Alpert or someone else will unearth his three Tijuana Brass television specials of the '60s for DVD.

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