Squawk Radio

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Liz Sings the Praises of Patio Music

I always associate Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with patio parties. Remember patio parties? Before the culture of the deck took over? A square piece of concrete in the backyard, often right off the garage, became this major social center during the summer in the ‘60s. The men wore tiki shirts and the women wore capri pants, and everyone had on funky sunglasses that weren’t funky at the time, because they were in style. People sat on metal gliders and plastic woven lawn chairs and talked about Cuba and Betty Friedan and what was happening on “The Edge of Night.” And the music was totally '60s, heavy on the brass and the Nelson Riddle strings and the cheesy background vocals.

I think one of the problems with the world today is that we don’t have patio parties anymore. Decks just don’t have the same feel, somehow. They’re so much bigger, and they’re not connected to the ground, and they just don’t breed the same sort of intimacy a patio does. So with the summer winding down, I’m going to start a patio party movement in the hopes that next summer, there will be more. And I’m nominating Herb Alpert and the TJB as the official music of patio parties, because it’s so quintessentially ‘60s.

“Going Places” is my favorite TJB album because most of the music is so lively and happy and ebullient. You’ve got great classic numbers like “Tijuana Taxi” and “Spanish Flea,” which I absolutely ADORED when I was a child, and “Zorba the Greek,” which Alpert plays with amazing skill. I don’t know how he can blow that hard and that fast into a trumpet, but, man, does he sound great. Every now and then you’ve got the musicians howling with exuberance, and you realize how much fun they’re having simply being able to play the music they play. There’s “3rd Man Theme,” which is incredibly evocative of the 60s mystique, and “Felicia,” which somehow makes cheesy background vocals sound fabulous. There are strings in some places, too, but they also act as aural provocateurs that take us right back to what was both a turbulent and simple decade that will never be matched in history. And neither will its music.

There are enough slow numbers in the mix, like “More and More Amor” and “Mae,” to give you time to replenish the bar and mix up a new batch of mai-tais and zombies (the official patio party drinks) and bedeck them with paper umbrellas (more patio party essentials), then the music speeds back up again so you can do a little twisting by the pool. Best of all, all of it is spiced up with that “South of the Border” flavor to which Herb Alpert and the boys bring just the right amount of spice. There simply is no band like them anywhere.

Okay, okay, I admit that Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass work great for deck parties, too. Instead of Cuba and Betty Friedan and “The Edge of Night,” you can talk about the Middle East and Dr. Phil and “Lost.” But you’ll have a lot more fun if you put on a tiki shirt and capri pants and sip a mai-tai while you're doing it. Trust me.
Elizabeth Bevarly, 10:11 AM