HERB ALPERT CHASES PASSION EVERY SINGLE DAY VIA CINCINNATI.COM
Herb Alpert grabbed the brass ring in 1962 when he recorded “The Lonely Bull,” which earned a level of success that would make him famous for a lifetime. Then he buckled down and went to work.
Alpert has sold more than 72 million records and has a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his role as co-founder of A&M Records and a National Medal of Arts. In addition, the Herb Alpert Foundation has invested millions of dollars in arts and community projects to inspire young people.
Alpert visits the Taft Theatre Tuesday night with his wife, singer Lani Hall, and their trio. Two nights later, the band will headline the jazz stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
Oh, by the way, he’s 82 years old.
“I’m doing exactly what I want to do with my life, man. I’m a right-brain guy, I’m 85 percent the right side of my head,” says Alpert. “I paint, I sculpt, I make music.
“I get up around 6, 6:30. I like it when there’s nothing happening, no phones, I can go at my own pace. I’ll go into the studio and I’ll look at some paintings and maybe get inspired. If not, I’ll go into the music studio and play the horn for a little while. I do that every day.”
Then 82-year-old Herb Alpert starts imitating a trumpet with his voice, probably like he did when he picked up the horn at the age of 8. He stops, laughs and asks, “You know what I mean?”
Millions of people know what Alpert means as his notes paint musical thought bubbles in their heads, pointing the path to a fond moment from the past. Alpert is proud of 55 years of accomplishments (including a Grammy in 2014 for “Steppin’ Out”), but he’s too busy to ponder his legacy.
“I feel like I’m at the top of my game as a musician, so I want to keep going as long as I can,” Alpert says. “My friend, Burt Bacharach, is doing it at 88. Man, he’s going to Australia and Europe, it’s what he lives for. Tony Bennett is 90 years old.
“I don’t think it’s chasing your dream, I think it’s chasing your passion. That’s why you get a good feeling when you wake up in the morning because you have something to do that gives you pleasure.”
The best part of the chase for Alpert is sharing it with Hall, his wife of 43 years. He doesn’t hesitate when asked about the most influential person in his life.
“She’s an angel, she changed my life,” he says. “She’s a tremendous artist and we have a great relationship. She’s just really special and I’m a lucky guy to have her in my life. I met her in 1966 when she was the lead singer for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. She called me Mr. Alpert for about a year. She still does now and then.”
Alpert breaks out the infectious laugh at his punch line, and for a moment it seems like a conversation between two folks who have known each other for 50 years, not 15 minutes on the phone. That ease cannot be taught, it’s innate. And authentic.
“The key is doing something that’s real and honest and filled with passion and done for the right reasons,” he says. “I never thought about making hit records. I wasn’t trying to make ‘The Lonely Bull’ sideways or repeat it in different ways. I always tried to explore my creativity. I think that’s what people respond to.”
That’s no bull.
Bill Thompson is co-host of “Blue Snakes & Banjos,” 6-8 p.m. Wednesdays on WAIF-FM (88.3)
IF YOU GO
What: Herb Alpert and Lani Hall
When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, Taft Theatre, 317 E. Fifth St., Downtown
Tickets: $48.50, $37.50, $29.50, plus service charge
Information: 513-232-6220; tafttheatre.org; herbalpert.com
At Cincinnati.com: Watch Herb Alpert and Lani Hall perform a medley of hits