It's not often that you get to speak with a musical legend as lasting and impactful as Herb Alpert. Given that he will be performing May 20 in our backyard at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, I thought you might enjoy this.
The numbers alone are staggering. One hundred million albums sold. Eight Grammys. Recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Thirteen million records sold in 1966. Four albums in the top 10 simultaneously. Top 10 singles in the 1960s, '70s and '80s. Five No. 1 singles.
And who could ever forget Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass?
He is a performer, sculptor, artist, painter, producer, record company founder, philanthropist and horn player extraordinaire.
As creative director and "A" of A&M Records, his influence in the music business is the stuff of legend. He guided the careers of The Carpenters, The Police, Janet Jackson, Gato Barbieri, Al Green, Chuck Mangione, Cheech and Chong, Joe Cocker, Sheryl Crow, Peter Frampton and many others.
Herb, along with his wife of 37 years and musical partner, Grammy-winning singer Lani Hall, just released "I Feel You." It's a marvelous, emotional, moody collection of standards, and Alpert will be featuring many of the selections, including some Tijuana Brass classics, at the show next week.
Alpert first described what's it like to make beautiful music, literally, with the one you love.
"We were friends for a long time," he said. "We then discovered that we were after the same things in life, Lani and I. Musically, we cherish honesty and beauty, and so when it comes time to do a record like this, we're totally on the same page. Working with her is an experience that is beautiful beyond words."
Now in his mid-70s, Alpert shows no signs of resting on his impressive musical laurels. Rather, he is looking ahead — far ahead — at his creative process.
"I'm still finding new groves," he laughed. "I was a classically trained musician, but then I got corrupted by Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and so many other great artists. Their vision, their spontaneity, it all just became the essence of how I work. Never getting too comfortable; always trying to grow and push my own boundaries."
And he commented on how much the business has changed since his first hit records, and also since he created one of the most artist-friendly record labels in history.
"It's pretty bleak today," he said. "Everything is run by huge conglomerates and lawyers. It's unfortunate, because there are so many great musicians out there today struggling. Radio is all but gone. But the good news is there are many new ways today to get your name out there on your own terms, to control your future and to develop an audience. It takes a lot of work, but it's worth it if you can break through as someone the people want to hear."
Alpert also wishes that the public schools got more involved in music education.
"There was a time when classical and jazz music was taught in the schools," he said. "When that started to go away, I think we really lost something special. It's why I do what I can to get the word back to students today."
Young fans still flock to Alpert shows in droves. Since 1979, when Alpert recaptured a huge youth audience with the hit "Rise," he has remained an artist who cuts across many age groups and tastes around the world, a universally respected artist and creative force.
"I still have so much fun," he said. "It can be a little bit of work hitting the road; traveling is harder than it used to be. But when you get up there, and the people have shown up, and it's time to play — man, that is still the coolest thing."
CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
Who: Herb Alpert & Lani Hall
When: 8 p.m. May 20
Where: Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
Cost: $25 and up
Information: (714) 556-2787 or http://www.scfta.org