IF YOU GO
What: Herb Alpert & Lani Hall in concert.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15.
Where: Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 W. Temple Ave. and Main Street, Sellersville.
Tickets: $65, $90.
Info.: (215) 257-5808, www.st94.com.
There’s still no stopping the 82-year-old Herb Alpert.
The mastermind behind the 1960s musical outfit the Tijuana Brass, cofounder of A&M Records, nine-time Grammy Award-winner, 2006 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, National Medal of Arts recipient, Hollywood Walk-of-Famer, philanthropist, painter and sculptor pauses from working on a new painting to chat on the phone about a Nov. 15 concert at Sellersville Theater with his wife, recording artist Lani Hall, and the two new albums he released this year — “Music Volume 1” and “The Christmas Wish,” his first holiday album in almost 50 years.
“I said: ‘Someday I’d like to do one with a choir and an orchestra.’ That’s been on my bucket list, man,” the trumpeter said of “The Christmas Wish,” which includes such recognizable songs as “Santa Baby,” “Winter Wonderland” and “White Christmas.”
In July Alpert released “Music Volume 1,” a collaboration with Jochem van der Saag (who’s also worked with Andrea Bocelli and Destiny’s Child) that reached No. 1 on the Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Album chart in its first week. With a track list of standards such as “Unforgettable,” “Witchcraft,” “C’est Si Bon” and “Just a Gigolo,” interspersed with rock ‘n’ roll era compositions like The Beatles’ “Michelle” and John Lennon’s “Imagine,” Alpert’s interpretation of Jason Mraz’s 2008 smash “I’m Yours” stands out. A video Alpert and Hall made for “I’m Yours” has more than 868,000 views on YouTube. “Lani, my wife, said: ‘Why don’t you try that song in a way that hasn’t been done before?’,” he said.
When asked about what his concerts are like these days, Alpert said, “It’s a knockout,” adding that he’s had the same band for 11 years. Besides revisiting hits from the Tijuana Brass years, Alpert said there will also be a medley of Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ‘66 songs because Hall was a member of that group. She sang lead vocals on the 1983 hit “Never Say Never Again.”
“Otherwise it’s pretty spontaneous. We’ve got a lot of songs we alternate,” he said.
Known primarily as an instrumentalist — Alpert’s lead vocal on the No. 1 “This Guy’s in Love with You” is a rare instance of him singing on one of his recordings — he also co-wrote “Wonderful World,” which was first popularized by Sam Cooke, and notably covered by Herman’s Hermits and Art Garfunkel (with Paul Simon and James Taylor). “Sam recorded that as a demonstration recording to see if it would work,” Alpert said of “Wonderful World,” a song he wrote with Lou Adler. The way Alpert tells it, Cooke never committed to a formal take of the song, the demo was shelved, and yet it mysteriously showed up on the radio.
When asked to guess how many people bought the 1965 multi-platinum-selling album “Whipped Cream and Other Delights” just for the racy cover art, he deadpanned: “I know one guy did,” and told a story of a recent encounter with a “Whipped Cream” fan who told him it was “the best album cover he’s ever seen.”
“I said: ‘How about the music?’ He still hasn’t gotten a chance to listen to it,” Alpert said.
Thanks to the advice of a friend Alpert had in common with the songwriter/producer team of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, he scored top-10 hits in three different decades, collaborating with Janet Jackson on the 1987 single “Diamonds.” “Janet’s a delight. She’s not just a name — she has talent,” he said.
The swaggering disco shuffle of Alpert’s 1979 instrumental “Rise” reached No. 1 a second time in the form of the hook of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Hypnotize” in 1997. According to Alpert, he wasn’t made aware of the sample until after “Hypnotize” was released, but made it sound like it wasn’t a big deal. “It was a hell of a good record — had a great feel to it,” he said, noting that “Rise” was co-written by his nephew, Randy “Badazz” Alpert.
The Herb Alpert Foundation is dedicated to funding arts education and jazz programs, as well as support to professional artists.
In 2015 and 2016, a bronze sculptural series of spirit totems by Alpert went on display at the Field Museum in Chicago. “I’m a right-brained guy. I’ve been doing it for many, many, many years. It feels nice,” he said.