Herb Alpert’s is a cocktail party of a canon, what with the trumpet and horns of “Tijuana Taxi,” the peppy joy of “Taste of Honey.” You listen to his songs with a smile on your face.
And then there is “This Guy’s in Love With You,” the 1968 hit that marked Alpert’s first time letting go of his signature trumpet and carrying an entire tune on his own.
It turned out to be genius.
“The director asked me to sing a song because he was tired of photographing me with a trumpet in my mouth,” Alpert recalled the other day. “He asked, ‘Is there a song you sing in the shower?’”
Alpert had just recorded the song — arranged by his friend, Burt Bacharach, who played piano — in just one take.
Two weeks later, it was the number-one song in the country.
“It was an unpretentious thing,” Alpert said. “I’m not a singer, but I communicated the feeling of the song and I think it worked really well.”
So well, that Alpert is still touring at 82, and is headed to The Triple Door in Seattle for four nights, March 28-31.
Alpert was on the phone from his six-acre, beachfront spread in Malibu, far from the East Los Angeles neighborhood where he was born, and where he started playing trumpet at age 8.
He wasn’t thinking about a career in music back then, he said, even though he went on to be a composer, arranger and producer.
“I was thinking about just trying to survive.”
He’s done that and more, providing the Latin-themed, smooth jazz soundtrack of the last 40 years. Six Top Ten hits. Nine Grammys, 70 million albums. Founding (with Jerry Moss) A&M Records, which signed Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton and The Carpenters. He even wrote the theme to “The Dating Game” TV show.
He will perform with his wife, Lani Hall, the former lead singer of Sergio Mendes’ Brasil 66; and a three-piece band, which allows them to improvise — something he couldn’t do with The Tijuana Brass.
“I’d play the same songs night after night,” Alpert said of the old days.
Now, his band indulges in “a lot of jazzy material.”
“It’s very transparent,” he said of their performances. “There’s no place to hide. We’re playing music that comes out of us naturally.”
Not to worry, though: Alpert promises a Tijuana Brass medley, and Hall will perform a Brazil 66 medley. And, as always, they will include a Q&A portion.
“I try to open it up so everyone feels a part of what we’re doing,” Alpert said.
But there’s a risk in that, he said, recalling the show at Disney Hall in Los Angeles when someone way back in the balcony asked, ‘What happened to your ex-wife?” (That would be Sharon Mae Lubin, with whom Alpert has two children. They divorced in 1971).
He and Hall married in 1973 — 44 years, Alpert said, which is a legacy all its own.
They have also given away over $160 million toward arts education through their foundation, and in 2011 saved The Harlem School of the Arts with a $6 million gift.
“It’s just in my DNA,” Alpert said of his philanthropy. “My dad was very generous and when we sold A&M Records and our publishing company, it was way beyond my dreams. And I felt a need to give some of that back.
“It’s unfortunate that our politicians don’t understand the beauty of art,” he said. “(President Donald Trump) didn’t want to go the The Kennedy Center Honors and honor the artists. They’re not being supported. It’s a crime.
“Art identifies who we are as a society.”
Indeed, Alpert is also an abstract impressionist painter and sculptor, whose towering, totem-like pieces sell for $200,000 and up.
Alpert doesn’t have to tour, he knows. But he feels so lucky.
“There are a certain amount of people who get joy out of what I have to play,” he said, “And I think we’re missing that joy. The energy that is coming out of our country is not very joyous.
“So I want people to have a good time,” he said, “for them to feel better walking out than they did walking in.”
Herb Alpert and Lani Hall. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday, March 28-29, and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, March 30-31; The Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $60-$90, 206-838-4333, tripledoor.net