The moment that lingered after Monday night’s performance by Herb Alpert and Lani Hall at One World Theatre wasn’t one of Alpert’s lyrical trumpet solos, or one of Hall’s swaying samba songs sung in Spanish. It was when the two musicians paused briefly to sit together at the edge of the piano while keyboardist Bill Cantos took the spotlight for a transcendent solo during “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
Married for 41 years, Alpert and Hall seem genuinely happy to be spending these twilight years together onstage. Hall was singing with Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 when Alpert’s label, A&M Records, signed the act in the 1960s, at the same time his band the Tijuana Brass was also in its heyday. The music they chose for their 90-minute set largely harkened back to that era — “when a song was a song,” Alpert mused, with a hint of nostalgic wonder in his voice.
Cantos, who impressed throughout on piano and organ and with some inspired improv vocal scatting, shared the backing duties with drummer Michael Shapiro and six-string electric bassist Hussain Jiffry. Alpert, who amassed a major fortune via A&M, certainly could afford a larger ensemble if he wanted, but the trio provides ideal support, tightly connected yet nimble enough to follow fresh directions in support of their trumpet and vocal leads.
Not surprisingly, the crowd delighted especially in midset medleys both performers played from their hallmark eras – Alpert weaving together a half-dozen Tijuana Brass instrumental favorites, Hall grafting a Brasil 66 pop medley onto the Carole King/Gerry Goffin classic “Up on the Roof.” A laid-back Alpert also took a few questions from the audience, offering up his choice for favorite James Bond theme (“Casino Royale”) and reminiscing about the bullfights that inspired his 1962 top-10 breakthrough “The Lonely Bull.”
The main set concluded with Irving Berlin’s “Putting on the Ritz,” but the musicians stuck around for an extended encore that included Alpert’s beautiful trumpet voicing of the melody to George Harrison’s “Something” and a rhythmically-driven version of the Frank Sinatra staple “Come Fly With Me.” (Both songs appear on Alpert’s new “Come Fly With Me” album, released last week.) One final medley, of songs by the Brazilian bossa nova innovator Antonio Carlos Jobim – Alpert couldn’t resist tagging the signature “Spanish Flea” riff at the end – sent the full house home in fine spirits, with another big crowd expected for a second show Tuesday night.