If there’s one person in music who never rests on their laurels, it would be legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert.
The eight-time Grammy Award winner, as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner, is about to embark on a tour of Canada at the age of 87 with his wife and artistic collaborator, Grammy-winning vocalist Lani Hall whose own successful band, Brazil 66, has a catalogue of acclaimed music. The couple is resuming a tour that was cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the pandemic he recorded and released two albums and continues to exhibit his paintings and sculptures, two additional endeavours that occupy the part of his creative life not occupied by making music.
Alpert is the proverbial force of nature whose six-decade career began when he was outselling The Beatles 2-1 in 1966. He is probably one of the most successful instrumentalists in music, although you can’t pigeonhole him as strictly an instrumentalist, given he hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart as a vocalist too (with “This Guy’s in Love with You” in 1968).
But it was Alpert’s ubiquitous trumpet leading his legendary band, the Tijuana Brass, that virtually soundtracked the Sixties with upbeat catchy arrangements aided by cutting edge imagery like the unforgettable album cover of 1966’s “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” which displayed a model draped in whipped cream and nothing else. That album is the one that outsold the Beatles – and everybody else.
Canada can claim to be a big part of that early success. Canada was the largest market for the Tijuana Brass after the UK in the Sixties, according to his publicist Caroline Graham.
But more than a musician, Alpert was also a successful record company executive, co-founding A&M Records with Jerry Moss, a label that had, besides Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and Brazil 66, such names as Burt Bacharach, the Carpenters, Captain and Tenille, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Nazareth, the Police and many more.
Alpert returns to Canada for a spring tour of the country that includes four dates in British Columbia. He rolls into B.C. to perform in Nanaimo’s Port Theatre April 4, Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre April 5, Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse April 7 and Vancouver’s Chan Center for Performing Arts April 8. Then it’s off to Alberta and Ontario.
Black Press caught up with Alpert in a phone call from his Malibu, California studio. As is common in conversation, the weather was the icebreaker, California experiencing a rare chill at the time.
HA: Lookit, I’ve been looking forward to this concert for the last two years. We had to postpone it, you know, because of the pandemic.
BP: So, what have you been doing the last couple of years?
HA: Well, I’ve been recording, and I’ve been painting and sculpting. I have a big art show on the eighth of March. And, yeah, that’s what I do. I’m a right brain guy. I paint, I sculpt, I make music, you know. I can entertain myself, because I’m an introvert. So it’s easy for me to be alone and make music.
HA: I actually I learned a lot in the last couple of years. I have the time to reflect on all the trumpet teachers that I studied with at an early age, and I started remembering some of the things that a few of the teachers were trying to teach me.
Alpert goes on to relate a story about remembering a Russian trumpet teacher he had that taught him about breathing properly and so, with the time on his hands, he started exploring this line of thinking.
HA: And I never thought of it that way before. I started experimenting, and all of a sudden, I find myself playing … It’s easier for me to play now than it was, like 30 years ago.
BP: Oh, really? Wow. Why do you think that is? Is it you’re more open now? Or are you … you just have had so much time to practice all the different options that are out there?
HA: Well, I think, hmm, I always thought I was open. But let’s say, you know, as a musician, you never get to the promised land, you never get to that end product. It’s always a pebble at a time. And that’s the fun of … that’s the pursuit. You never arrive, you know, you’re always going forward. So I haven’t lost that ability. That’s something that’s in me. I love waking up in the morning thinking about music and art and so that keeps me humming.
BP: So, you’re, you’re hitting the road … why do you continue to do that?
HA: A really good question. And my wife asked me the same question. I’d say I, I know I sold a lot of albums and records. And there’s a certain amount of people that really respond to the music that I make. And I feel like it’s … not like I have a responsibility. But it gives me pleasure to be able to do that. I don’t think many people have the ability to do something that can make others happy and feel good. And speaking of what I said before about being in the moment of my life, I think when you’re at a concert, and you’re hearing some music that gives you pleasure, you’re in that moment. You’re in that moment of well, this is what’s happening in my life right now. And it’s, it’s a great relief for lots of people. And I get pleasure out of doing it. I still get pleasure out of playing and it’s not like I’m taking a victory lap, I don’t, I don’t need the adulation. I need the feeling of just doing it. And I love playing with live musicians. It’s not a cookie cutter performance that we do. It’s not the same thing every night. It’s very open, very spontaneous, if you will, obviously I’ll do a Tijuana Brass medley and Lani will do Brasil 66. But surrounding that … it just songs we like to play and it’s of the moment. That’s how I like to do it.
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall in Concert will be a 90-minute show with no intermission. The couple and their band will perform an eclectic mix of American standards, Brazilian jazz, some Beatles, some classic Tijuana Brass and Brazil 66 songs as well as many surprises. The format is informal as Alpert loves to answer questions from the audience. The show features a giant video screen that displays hundreds of classic photos, videos and various memorabilia from Alpert and Hall’s careers.
Tickets are $85.55 Tier 1, $70.44 Tier 2 (includes GST, +applicable fees) and are available at the Tidemark Theatre box office or online.
AUDIO BONUS: Reflections on the music industry
As mentioned before, Alpert was co-founder of the very sucessful record label, A&M Records. Alpert talked about the circumstances launching the label, the music industry today and had some words of advice for young musicians. Have a listen here: