May 8-14, 2008, Issue 658

Joe's Pub, Thu 8-Sat 10

In the mid-’60s, when bossa nova pulsed out of every elevator in America, keyboardist Sergio Mendes launched an easy-listening sensation, Brasil ’66. The seven-member group included two American girls, Lani Hall and Janis Hansen; smiling and swaying like flower children, they sang Brazilian songs in phonetic Portuguese and bossa-like covers of Top 40 hits. Hall’s touchingly bittersweet voice gave Brasil ’66 its heart, and in 1971 she left to record solo on A&M. Three years later she wed label cofounder Herb Alpert, the rakishly handsome trumpeter and megamogul.

Now 62, Mrs. Alpert needn’t sing for her supper, and performs only when she feels like it. Same with her 73-year-old husband, who sold A&M in 1989 and became a philanthropist of staggering largesse. Yet they’re on a rare tour that’s bringing them to Joe’s Pub. Much history precedes the couple. During the heyday of Brasil ’66, Alpert led the Tijuana Brass, a pop-mariachi act of such mammoth success that in 1966 it allegedly doubled the Beatles’ U.S. sales. Hall peaked commercially in the ’80s, when she sang the Bond theme “Never Say Never Again” and won a Grammy for her Latin collection
Es Facil Amar.

It wasn’t until 1998 that she released an album worthy of her gifts; on
Brasil Nativo she sang with a burnished glow and new depth, while producer and guest star Alpert displayed his long-diluted talent as a fiery, articulate jazz trumpeter. He’s promised that sort of music-making on this tour, which they’re clearly doing for the art, not the money.— James Gavin