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Herb Alpert: Come Fly With Me

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More than 50 years have passed since Herb Alpert burst onto the international music scene with his Tijuana Brass and proved, quite literally, instrumental in presaging the smooth-jazz movement that he’s still a vital part of. As one of the most admired music titans of that past century, his success with the TJB is dwarfed by his achievements as a mogul (cofounder of A&M), educator and philanthropist. Yet, at age 80, he remains at heart a passionate trumpet player. There was a lengthy period, starting around the turn of the century and stretching for nearly a decade, when he went quiet. Then, with 2009’s Anything Goes, began a welcome renaissance. Now five albums in, he delivers by far the finest session of his career resurgence. This is Alpert’s first postmillennial disc without his wife, singer Lani Hall, nor does he himself add any vocals. The focus is squarely on his playing, which, noticeably ragged on a couple of previous releases, has regained most of its clarity and vigor.

Though he disbanded the Brass in 1969, its breezy influence is still evident, particularly on zesty treatments of “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” “Night Ride” (one of five Alpert originals) and the Sinatra-associated title track. But Come Fly With Me is far more inventive than nostalgic. Alongside such regular session-mates as bassist Hussain Jiffry, drummer Michael Shapiro and keyboardists Eduardo del Barrio, Bill Cantos and Jeff Lorber, he experiments with a spectrum of rhythms and textures. Cleverest among them: his reggae-laced takes on “Got a Lot of Livin’ to Do” and the loping “Walkin’ Tall”; the programming-driven (courtesy of son Randy) panache of “Sweet and Lovely” and “Windy City”; and the calypso-charged “Cheeky.” Most sublime: his slow-chugging, crepuscular “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

Originally Published