Lani Hall, Herb Alpert still a dynamic duo 40 years later
By Miriam Di Nunzio firstname.lastname@example.org May 29, 2013 5:52PM
Lani Hall and Herb Alpert headline the Park West on June 2. | GETTY IMAGES
An Evening with Herb
Alpert and Lani Hall
♦ 7:30 p.m. June 2
♦ Park West, 322 W. Armitage
♦ Tickets, $45 (18+over)
Updated: May 29, 2013 11:41PM
You can take the girl out of Chicago, but legendary singer Lani Hall is proof you can’t take Chicago out of the girl.
Known for being the soulful and haunting voice of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, not to mention the wife of iconic Grammy-winning trumpeter Herb Alpert, Hall recently penned “Emotional Memoirs & Shorts Stories,” 10 short stories that blend reality and fiction, and paint a portrait of her early years, with her beloved hometown Chicago as the backdrop.
“It took 30 years to write the book,” Hall says with a velvety laugh during a recent interview from the California home she shares with her husband of nearly 40 years.
“I’ve always written poetry, but started writing short stories in the early ’80s while on tour in Mexico. I collected them and put them in a drawer and just wasn’t planning on doing anything with them. About a year ago, I started giving them to friends to see what they thought. And they were so encouraging to me about the stories that I decided I could put a book together. That’s when I started writing a narrative through them to pull all of them together. I found these snapshots of Chicago that I had taken and suddenly it became very personal for me.
One of the stories, “Mr. Belmont,” is a “Valentine to Chicago,” Hall says, the city that she loves so much, the city she’d live in if it wasn’t for those legendary brutal winters.
“I left Chicago when I had just turned 20,” Hall says. “When I moved out to L.A. I couldn’t believe that [the weather] was always the same!. I never drove when I lived in Chicago. I was so seduced by the beauty that I saw and the strength of the buildings and the architecture, the journey that the L [train] took me on. I was locked in that romance and I still am to a large degree.”
Her ultimate romance has been her relationship with Alpert, whom she met when she, Mendes and Brasil ’66 were auditioning for Alpert’s A&M record label. They have been inseparable ever since. They keep the music playing be accepting each other without reservations, they will tell you.
“We’re not trying to change each other,” she says. “We’re respectful of each other. We’re both musicians, so working together is an extension of our relationship. We don’t fight a lot. We laugh a lot. We’re both romantics and that helps. We write each other cards. We don’t buy gifts for each other anymore. We’re just very affectionate toward each other. And we don’t spend time apart. We’re pretty attached to each other. And at the base of it all, we’re best friends. I know people always say that but we truly are. To really like this person you’re with is to like who they are exactly as they are. Herb is such a kind, kind man, and very gentle and honest.”
That “gentle and honest man,” is one of the most successful musicmakers in history, whose brand of trumpet-playing helped usher in a tidal wave of Brazilian jazz in the 1960s and ’70s.
“I was lucky in elementary school in L.A. that there was music appreciation class,” Alpert says. “I was eight and very shy when I picked up the trumpet, and it changed my life. I’ve certainly been blessed way beyond my dreams and I have that need now to give back.”
Alpert’s way of giving back is the Herb Alpert Foundation, which sponsors numerous music programs and annually awards music scholarships (this year’s ceremony took place on May 10) to the tune of nearly $100 million to date.
“[The recipients] are artists in mid-career who are trying to do something extraordinary and uniquely their own,” Alpert explains. “Through winning the award, it gives them the chance to take it further.”
Always wanting to take music further himself, Alpert’s next album, due out later this year, is a blend of originals, and standards — Herb Alpert-style.
“I started out classically-trained and got seduced by jazz and you never quite conquer that,” Alpert says laughing. He says he continues to find inspiration in so many places and the music of so many musicians past and present. “I listen to good jazz. Charlie Parker inspires everyone. I love Miles Davis. Dave Brubeck. The thing about making music and art is you to get to be in the moment of your life when you’re doing it. When I’m playing I’m not thinking how dysfunctional Washington, D.C, is. You have to be real and you have to be in your own zone or the music isn’t real.”
Being real is one of the qualities he finds so endearing in Hall, he says.
“She’s real,” Alpert says of his wife. “It comes through in her music and now in her writing. This book is a love story for Chicago.”
Lani Hall will be signing copies of her book, “Emotional Memoirs & Short Stories,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. June 4 at Foodease in Water Tower Place.