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Thursday, May 28, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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For Lani Hall, improvisation is the joy of life and music

UPDATED: Wed., July 26, 2017

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall will play the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Thursday. (Dewey Nicks)
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall will play the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Thursday. (Dewey Nicks)

It’s been more than five decades since Sergio Mendes discovered singer Lani Hall at a Chicago nightclub. She joined Mendes’ Brasil ’66 and met trumpeter Herb Alpert (of Tijuana Brass fame) that same year.

Both proved to be momentous events.

After eight albums with Brasil ’66, Hall launched a solo career, recording songs in English, Spanish and Portuguese. Her 1986 album, “Es Fácil Amar,” won the Grammy for best Latin pop performance, and she made a splash with the theme song to the 1983 James Bond flick, “Never Say Never Again.”

Alpert, meanwhile, has been prolific as a performer, producer and record executive, having founded A&M Records in 1962. He scored his first No. 1 hit with “A Taste of Honey” in 1965, from the iconic Tijuana Brass album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights.” He has five No. 1 albums (and 14 platinum records) and nine Grammy awards to his credit.

Married since 1973, Hall and Alpert have been frequent collaborators, most recently on the Grammy-winning 2013 album “Steppin’ Out” and 2016’s Grammy nominated “Human Nature.” They performed with the Spokane Symphony in January 2016, and return to the Fox theater on Thursday with their band to perform songs from their extensive catalogs, with perhaps a few surprises.

In a recent phone interview, Hall talked about the joys of jazz, of life on the road, and of being married to a creative whirlwind.

Q. Last time you and Herb were in Spokane, you were performing with the Spokane Symphony. What will be different this time, aside from the fact that you won’t be backed by a full orchestra?

A. We have charts for the songs that we do, and we have to stay within that form when we’re playing with a symphony orchestra, because they’re reading the charts. When we’re not with a symphony orchestra, we’re a lot more improvisational, and so it’s a different feeling for us on stage, and I’m sure it is for the audience as well. It’s very different to hear a symphony orchestra behind this music, and then to not hear it. It’s a different experience to hear it.

Q. So you find you’re able to swing a little more, get a little more jazzy, when you’re up there with your musicians, rather than oboes and cellos and clarinets?

A. Absolutely. But when I do a ballad, to hear those strings, it’s really beautiful. But there’s a different approach to the song when you know it’s just us there and we’re trying to interpret the lyric and trying to live within that song, rather than ride on the wings of the symphony.

Q. What are you playing these days? Songs from the last album, or music from throughout your careers?

A. It’s music from the decades that we’ve been performing. There are a couple medleys. I do a Brasil ’66 medley, and Herb does a Tijuana Brass medley, so the people who want to hear that music get a chance to do it right there. And then we kind of mix it up. … We’re always adding new material. Because of the improvisational nature of the music, it always sounds fresh to us. We don’t get tired of doing it. We’re not locked into a form to do this music. We can go off and do what we want to do for awhile, and the other musicians can grab onto those ideas while they’re happening. It’s very spontaneous.

Q. That certainly is one of the joys of jazz, right?

A. Absolutely. It’s one of the joys of life! To be spontaneous in life, to be improvising in life, there’s magic there.

Q. I know you and Herb have been making music together for a long time. Is it still fun to go out on tour with your husband?

A. Oh, gosh. It’s fantastic. It’s like we’re meant to be there. I love going on the road. When we’re not on the road, I dream that we’re in hotels. I’ve been on the road since I was 20. What a wonderful blessing it’s been … to have this life that I have, that I can perform and sing and do what I was gifted to do.

Q. I know you and Herb put out “Steppin’ Out” in 2013. Are you working on something new, or are you still letting that one breathe awhile longer before you head back into the studio?

A. I’m starting to percolate a little bit with finding some songs I want to sing. I’ve got about four or five of them so far. I’m starting to gather that together. We’ll see what happens. Herb is much easier about it than I am. I’m much too serious about it.

Q. How so? What’s his attitude toward recording

A. He naturally will experiment constantly. He never stops. He’s the most creative person in so many different ares. Just the way he lives his life is creative. He needs that. That’s what comes naturally to him. He can just keep going with ideas for songs and records and shows and paintings and sculpture and all of this. It takes me a longer time. I need to ruminate. I need to dance and wander in it before it takes hold of me. When I find songs I really love to sing, that’s what sparks my enthusiasm to possibly go into the studio.

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