Thursday, February 9, 2017

Tijuana Class

In remarks for his insightful UO SOJC presentation titled “Guitars, Artists, Culture,” my colleague Tom Wheeler, a former editor-in-chief for Guitar Player Magazine and free lancer for Rolling Stone, now journalism professor-cum-author, noted that the 60s were a uniquely eclectic time for popular music in America.

For example, he said, you could turn on your car radio at any moment and hear the quite diverse sounds of Chubby Checker, Percy Faith And His Orchestra, Helen Reddy, Elvis, Tony Bennett, The Beatles, Jimmy Dean, Marvin Gaye, The Who, the 5th Dimension and Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, in no particular order.

As luck would have it, we caught the legendary Herb Alpert and his wife Lani Hall when they brought their own eclectic blend of jazz, world beat and American pop standards to The Shedd Institute in Eugene. Now 81, Alpert burst upon the music scene in the 60s with the pop confection known as “Spanish Flea.”

Now primarily a jazz musician, his most recent CD is called “Human Nature” and features his wife on vocals; Hall is the former vocalist for Sergio Mendes and Brazil ’66, another pop staple of the 60s. Alpert also founded A&M records, won nine Grammy Awards and his “Spanish Flea” became the theme music for “The Dating Game.”

The concert featured medleys focused on his popular hits and movie themes, along with cuts from dance grooves, electronic music and jazz tunes from his new CD. The concert vibrated with energy yet was very informal. In between sets, Alpert would reflect on his storied career, asking nobody in particular: “Do you have any questions?”

During one of his soliloquies, he referenced his most notable album cover from the early days: “Whipped Cream & Other Delights.” A friend told him: “Hey, I love that album cover.” “Have you listened to the music on the album?” Alpert asked, hoping for feedback. “Well, no,” came the reply. “But I will soon.”