HERB ALPERT TO PERFORM AT MAYO PAC
Before “Rise,” before “This Guy’s in Love with You,” before A&M Records, and even before “A Taste of Honey,” Herb Alpert loved big band music.
As a young man with a horn in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Alpert played standards such as “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” at dances and parties.
“I like melodies,” says Alpert. “Before Tijuana Brass, I had a backlog of songs. If there was a melody I liked, I would play it, but I would try to do a different take.”
So Alpert’s new CD “In the Mood” is less an example of an artist trying a new genre and more a case of a musician revisiting an old love. The album mixes originals and reworkings of such songs as “Begin the Beguine” and “Let It Be Me.”
The closing track is a version of “America the Beautiful” that incorporates percussion from every inhabited continent. “America is a melting pot, and I wanted this recording to reflect that,” says Alpert.
Hall has a following of her own, which can be traced to her days as one of the lead vocalists of Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66.
“We try to keep each concert fresh,” says Alpert. “We do an improvisational set. We do a medley of Tijuana Brass hits, because that’s what people want to hear. But we also do some Brazilian songs and some jazz. It’s a little bit of everything.”
That eclectic approach can be heard even in Alpert’s first recordings with the Tijuana Brass. His approach was informed by music he heard on visits to Tijuana.
“It wasn’t exactly mariachi,” he says. “It was more the sound of the little brass bands you’d hear on the streets. I had this idea, and it seemed to work.”
Through the 1960s, Alpert and the Tijuana Brass scored with such instrumentals as “The Lonely Bull,” “A Taste of Honey,” “Spanish Flea,” and “Tijuana Taxi.”
At the same time, Alpert and his business partner, Jerry Moss, started A&M Records. “In those days, a record company could operate out of the trunk of a car,” Alpert says. “You could take a master to a radio station, and they’d put it on the air.”
Soon, Alpert and Moss expanded to other clients. From the 1960s to the 1980s, A&M Records was one of the most successful independent labels in America, with a roster that ran from jazz (Chuck Mangione) to New Wave (Joe Jackson, Squeeze).
Along the way, Alpert racked up a number of Grammys and other honors. He remains the only musician to have a Number One record as an instrumentalist (“Rise” in 1979) and as vocalist (“This Guy’s in Love with You” in 1968).
The latter song came about almost by happenstance, according to Alpert. “I was doing a TV special, and the director, Jack Haley Jr., said he was tired of shooting me and my trumpet,” he says. “He asked if I could sing a song to break things up.”
Alpert then contacted Burt Bacharach, who suggested a song that he had originally written for Dionne Warwick called “This Girl’s in Love with You.” With the blessings of lyricist Hal David, Alpert changed the gender of the song.
“I think that song connected with people because it was unpretentious,” he says. “It has a great melody and a great lyric.”
On March 31, only a few days after his New Jersey concerts, Alpert will turn 80. “It surprises me, but I feel good about it,” he says. “I’m healthy. I have a great wife. I have the Herb Alpert Foundation that does a lot of good work. I’m very fortunate.”
Alpert credits his longevity to music. “I’m a guy following his passion,” he says. “I’ve played the horn every day since I was eight. It gives me pleasure and energy.”
HERB ALPERT AND LANI HALL
WHAT: Alpert, whose 50-plus-year career includes hits as an instrumentalist (“Rise,” “A Taste of Honey”) and vocalist (“This Guy’s in Love with You”), appears with his wife, Lani Hall, formerly the lead singer of Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66. Alpert and Hall will perform music from throughout their career, including their latest CD, “In the Mood.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 25
WHERE: Bergen Performing Arts Center, 30 N. Van Brunt St., Englewood
TICKETS: $29 to $69
INFORMATION: 201-227-1030 or www.bergenpac.org
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday, March 26