It’s finally lunchtime here in Corporate Hell, and that means Day 37 of my “100 Day Challenge” core workout (click HERE) with a little Jazz Boner to boot, the ‘South of the Border‘ album by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.
Anyone who knows me well or reads this little blog already knows that I have a weak spot for cheesy Mariachi-inspired jazz, specifically Herb Alpert. So, really, this album is the just the next sample of that “cheese jazz” from my record collection .
Released in 1964, this album featured Alpert’s first top ten hit, and fifth gold record. The album continued the progression of the Tijuana Brass from its mostly-Mexican sound to a more easy-listening style, with a collection of cover versions of popular songs. Included were ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face‘, originally featured in the Broadway musical ‘My Fair Lady’ and The Beatles’ 1963 hit ‘All My Loving‘. It also featured an instrumental cover of its title song, ‘South of the Border‘, which was most famously done as a vocal by Frank Sinatra.
At the time of this album’s recording, Alpert was still using an array of SoCal studio all-stars as his Tijuana Brass and this album began to restore the combo’s good name after the modest ‘Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2‘ (1963) failed to ignite a fire in listener’s ears. Alpert later commented that the Sol Lake composition ‘Mexican Shuffle‘ “opened a new door for me.”
That passageway meant the loss of the Tijuana Brass’ practically forced mariachi style and the rise of Alpert’s approach in arranging familiar melodies in fresh, creative settings. Nowhere would this stylistic progression be as pronounced as in the horn-driven updates of several then-concurrent chart hits. For instance, the mod sonic wrinkle in ‘Girl from Ipanema‘ emits a darkness veiled in mystery, directly contrasting the light buoyancy of ‘Hello! Dolly‘ which follows immediately afterwards. They seamlessly fit in with Sol Lake’s ‘Salud, Amor y Dinero‘ and a cover of Julius Wechter’s playful, midtempo ‘Up Cherry Street‘ – which Wechter’s own Baja Marimba Band had just recorded for their 1964 self-titled debut. The ballads ‘I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face’, ‘Angelito‘ and ‘Adios, Mi Corazon‘ provide contrasts with Alpert’s sensitive scores never seeming maudlin or unnecessarily over the top.
Oh, and if the regal ‘El Presidente‘ sounds particularly familiar, it may well be due to Alpert’s slight renovation of the ‘Winds of Barcelona‘ from the Tijuana Brass’ previous effort, the less than impressive ‘Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, Vol. 2‘. It was renamed ‘El Presidente‘, presumably to honor the then-recent memory of the slain U.S. leader John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Isn’t that nice?