Herb Alpert: Fandango

The 1960s gave us the Beatles and the Stones, Joni Mitchell and Janis Joplin. They also gave us Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Indeed, among the era’s American hitmakers, few came close to matching the popularity of the TJB (none of whom were Mexican, including Alpert, who used to jokingly refer to the septet as “four lasagnas, two bagels and an American cheese”). Sure, it was fizzy, high-caloric pop, and Alpert was a solid though hardly exceptional trumpeter. But as suburbs sprawled, Alpert exhibited absolute genius at steering the hi-fi tastes of the bourgeois-not just with the TJB but with several of the acts under his A&M banner, including Sergio Mendes and the Carpenters.

So it should come as no surprise that Alpert’s second (and less seismic) wave of success in the late 1970s and early ’80s would, for better or worse, prove equally influential. It’s reasonable to aver that he, as much or more so than Bob James, Chuck Mangione or David Sanborn, was quite literally instrumental in ushering in the smooth-jazz craze with a quartet of albums culminating in 1982’s Fandango, newly remastered and reissued.

In essence, the nine musicians assembled here (including Alpert sidekick Julius Wechter on marimba and drummer Carlos Vega) are simply a more refined version of the TJB. (The Riviera Maya Brass, if you will.) As always with Alpert, the tunes, most written by Juan Carlos Calderón, are tasteful, fun and meticulously shaped, particularly the propulsive “Route 101” (though the slight-voiced Alpert should have been discouraged from singing “Quiéreme Tal Como Soy” in stilted, phonetically learned Spanish). He remains both prince and Pied Piper of middlebrow sophistication. If you want to ascribe thanks-or blame-for Kenny G, start here.