Herb Alpert
Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert is a true renaissance man.  The Grammy-winning jazz/pop trumpeter and philanthropist—whose music career spans more than 60 years—still records, tours, paints and sculpts on a regular basis.  He oversees L.A. jazz club Vibrato with his daughter, too.

“I wake up in the morning thinking about music,” says Alpert, 88.  “I’m a right brain guy.  I can entertain myself and that’s just what I love to do.”

Early in 2020, the trumpeter and his vocalist wife Lani Hall (best known for her work with Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 and singing the Bond theme to “Never Say Never Again”) performed at Musco Center.  Alpert also participated in a panel discussion during Chapman’s Leap of Art residency.  Students from Chapman and elsewhere attended.

“I always enjoy doing that.  I try to pass on stuff I’ve learned over 150 years,” Alpert jokes.  While talking to music students, he often advises them to “be passionate” about what they’re doing.  “If you want to be a musician, you can’t do it for any other reason than it’s something you’re born to do and you’re pursuing your gift.”

Enriching such talent has been a primary goal for The Herb Alpert Foundation, which Alpert and Hall started in 1988.  It funds arts programs that keep creativity alive, presents monetary prizes to artists of all ages in various disciplines and more.

Inspiration for the foundation came from when Alpert was eight years old and attending grammar school in L.A.  “I was really fortunate.  There was a music appreciation class.  I picked up a trumpet and it changed my life,” he recalls.  “I felt if I ever had the opportunity, I’d try to help others.”

The Alpert Foundation has made multi-million-dollar donations to support L.A. Music Center, music programs/facilities at CalArts, UCLA and L.A. City College, Harlem School of the Arts and more.

“We support 97 different organizations,” states Alpert.  “I find it gratifying.  I wanted to do a ‘tag – you’re it.’  If I can do it, you can do it, too.  Come to the party…Arts are the heart and soul of our country.”

Alpert began his music career by co-writing and producing for Sam Cooke and Jan & Dean.  When a brief attempt as a solo singer didn’t take off, Alpert launched A&M Records in 1962 with Jerry Moss and formed The Tijuana Brass.  The instrumental band’s initial top 10 pop hit “The Lonely Bull” was followed by 19 more on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart.  The Rock Hall inductee considers their 1965 record Whipped Cream & Other Delights a career high point (deep cut “Ladyfingers” went viral on TikTok last year).

At one point, The Tijuana Brass outsold The Beatles with four albums charting simultaneously (Taylor Swift recently tied the record).  Alpert’s rare vocal turn on Bacharach/David tune “This Guy’s in Love with You” also topped the pop tally in 1968.

A&M became the world’s largest independent record company with an enviable roster.  Alpert married Hall in 1973.  Six years later, he went to No. 1 again with the multi-format instrumental “Rise.”  The song later became a popular sampling choice for rappers.  The Alpert and Janet Jackson collaboration “Diamonds” was a major pop/R&B hit in 1987.

Alpert continued to put out albums into the Nineties but then focused more on painting and sculpting.  He didn’t release anything new in the 2000s but has made up for lost time since 2011 with a prolific streak.

On 49th studio album Wish Upon a Star, Alpert tackles with panache tunes popularized by The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Carpenters, Cat Stevens and Disney’s “Pinocchio.”  The trumpeter says he tends to pick songs that haunt him.  “I try to make music that makes me feel good and rings honest to me.”

Herb Alpert & Lani Hall, 7:30 pm, January 28, Musco Center for the Arts, 714-997-6812, www.MuscoCenter.org

Article Published in the
Jan / Feb 24 edition of the Old Towne Orange Plaza Review
Written by George A. Paul Photo provided by Musco Center for the Arts
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