The Pop Culture Road Trip

From an article I wrote recently…

“It’s not often that you get to speak with a musical legend as lasting and impactful as Herb Alpert. Given that he will be performing May 20 in our backyard at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, I thought you might enjoy this.
The numbers alone are staggering. One hundred million albums sold. Eight Grammys. Recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Thirteen million records sold in 1966. Four albums in the top 10 simultaneously. Top 10 singles in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s. Five No. 1 singles.
And who could ever forget Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass?”

I recently had the pleasure of seeing jazz trumpet legend Herb Alpert appear in concert with his wife, noted jazz singer Lani Hall. The pair is touring to support their latest album, “I Feel You” which is an evocative, lush, ravishing collection of standards.

The show took place at the famed Segerstrom Hall here in Orange County, a premier concert hall that was packed for the duo.

Alpert is of course vaunted for his Tijuana Brass days among many other major musical accomplishments, but this show was not a nostalgic jukebox. You got some of the older hits, but more than that, you got a hefty dose of modern jazz singing and playing that looked more to the future than the past.

Utilizing the same group onstage as they did on the new album, Alpert and Hall moved easily through a diverse musical landscape including Berimbau, Night and Day, and Let’s Face the Music and Dance.

Herb’s past came back in the form of the hits Rise, The Lonely Bull and A Taste of Honey, but again, the night was not about time machines.

Blending in some Cole Porter chestnuts along with Fever, Blackbird and some other familiar-but-maybe-not-so-familiar-when-rethought-in-this-inventive way classics, the pair & band thrilled the audience in a set that seemed to fly by a bit too fast.

Alpert took questions and comments from the audience as well, which allowed him to show off his low-key and humble humor that is as charming as it is refreshing.

The new album is terrific, the live show is stellar.

Don’t miss either, if you can help it (the tour is over for now but stay tuned)

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Many of you are preparing for graduations this time of the year – we have two. Our daughter is moving from middle school to high school and our son is graduating from high school.

My newspaper column this week talks about all of this, with a poem I wrote for grads, and also for parents.

But there’s something else I wanted to share. When our son was about one, he started climbing up into a green chair I have – a seat from the long gone baseball stadium Comiskey Park in Chicago. As he grew, that chair remained a favorite of his, so I started taking photos of him every time he climbed it. The tradition continues to this day – and here, set to a beautiful song from the new Christopher Cross album, is what growing up looks like… congratulations to all this grad season – good luck to everyone.

I took this photo this morning and attached what felt like an appropriate thought – from one of my favorite philosophers…

“I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge; I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there.”
Confucius, The Confucian Analects


Thirty years ago, it was seemingly everywhere; the earnest, feathery voice of a soft-spoken Texas balladeer – Christopher Cross. The charts back then featured a galaxy of stars and soon-to-be-legends; Blondie, Queen, Elton John, Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney. But Cross’s thoughtful, simple, self-titled debut made its mark – big time.

In 1981, he took home five Grammys. Since then, there’s also been an Oscar, a Golden Globe, not to mention about nine million worldwide album sales.

Christopher Cross practically invented the “Adult Contemporary” genre on the strength of songs including “Sailing”, “Ride Like The Wind” (with Michael McDonald), and “Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do”).

Though Cross hasn’t released a new studio album in 12 years, it’s not like he hasn’t been busy. He tours all over the world, records, guests on the records of others and more.

And Cross has just unveiled a new collection of songs that harken back to some of his most memorable work.

“Doctor Faith” shimmers with the same rich melodic atmosphere that was the essence of his first, self-titled LP.

Reflective, personal and sometimes introspective, Cross (who co-wrote the album with Rob Meurer) is in fine form throughout the 13 tracks.

On “I’m Too Old For This” he laments some of the cultural and political changes our country is currently in the midst of, and his frustration is obvious.

But on tracks like “When You Come Home”, “November”, and “Dreamers”, Cross’s delicate emotional embrace puts him squarely back where so many million love him; plaintively expressing simple thoughts of love, and posing graceful metaphors mixed with honest questions about life.

In true Christopher Cross fashion, certain songs contain subtle anthemic qualities that might evoke a first-dance wedding song, or even a prom. But that only adds to the “rediscovering-a-long-ago friend” quality of the music. One forgets how the musical voices of our younger days remain wafting in our consciousness, whether we know it or not, and how pleasing it is to reconnect.

Cross’s point of view on the album, like many of his original fans are experiencing themselves, is older and wiser. Everyone has grown up. But he manages to blend the wisdom of age with a winsome delivery that’s youthful and cautiously hopeful.

Recalling the early-1970s singer/songwriter era of Laura Nyro, Carole King, Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell (to whom Cross dedicates the set), “Doctor Faith” reveals a mature artist in full control of his greatest gifts; an ear for airy, cozy, familiar melodies and lyrics with a poignant, everyman touch.

There are some nice cameos (including Michael McDonald on the title track and guitarist Eric Johnson on the exquisite “Hey Kid”) but Cross himself carries the day on “Doctor Faith”.

From end to end, “Doctor Faith” is a sincere, lush kaleidoscope of simple elegance; a serious statement from an artist who is anxious to catch up once again with his audience to talk about life – an audience that likely will appreciate the heartfelt effort.

I know I did.

Listen to samples and purchase here.

Fans who want to see Christopher performing his hits live can visit his website for concert dates.