By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
Music legend Herb Alpert
is 85 years-old and continues to live life to the fullest. The multi-award winning trumpeter who rose to prominence during the 1960s as the leader of the Tijuana Brass band, is the subject of the fascinating new documentary “Herb Alpert Is…”
which arrives in theaters and on VOD Oct. 2.
Directed by John Scheinfeld
(“Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary” and “Sergio Mendes: In The Key of Joy”). “Herb Alpert Is…” tells Alpert’s remarkable story and offers perspectives from colleagues and musicians such as Questlove, Sting, Bill Moyers, Quincy Jones, Jimmy Jam, Burt Bacharach, Lou Adler, Richard Carpenter, Alpert’s wife Lani Hall—who sings-- and Jerry Moss, Alpert’s partner and co-founder of A&M Records in Los Angeles. Alpert is the “A” and Moss the “M”).
The A&M indie record company further cemented Alpert’s musical legacy. It became one of the most successful music labels in history with a roster of artists such as Carole King, Cat Stevens, The Carpenters, Janet Jackson, Peter Frampton, Joe Cocker, Quincy Jones, Sergio Mendes, and The Police among others.
Many of these musicians are featured in the documentary and discuss Alpert’s continuing influence in the music industry. They marvel at how this once shy and unassuming 8-year-old kid who in third grade music appreciation class found his voice through a trumpet and made everyone take notice.
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass became a worldwide phenomenon. In the documentary Alpert said the group came about after a chance visit, he took to see the bullfights in Tijuana, Mexico. That triggered the idea for “The Lonely Bull,” the first instrumental hit for Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass in 1962.
Despite the band’s name, neither Alpert nor its members were of Mexican heritage. The success of “The Lonely Bull” brought financial security both to Alpert and A&M Records along with subsequent tracks like, “Mexican Shuffle,” “A Taste of Honey,” and “Spanish Flea.” The latter song became the theme music for the popular TV show “The Dating Game.” Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass were everywhere on the airwaves during the 1960s. Alpert contributed to movie scores, performing the title track for the 1967 spy parody movie “Casino Royale”
written by Burt Bacharach.
Alpert’s distinctive sound was a huge hit with audiences worldwide and over the years his creativity saw him blend Dixieland and mariachi styles with jazz and pop, R&B and yes even hip-hop. The Notorious B.I.G. couldn’t resist Alpert’s infectious groove and sampled Alpert’s 1979 chart-topping song “Rise” on his 1997 smash hit, “Hypnotize”).
Throughout his career, Alpert racked up numerous awards including: five No. 1 albums and 28 albums on the Billboard magazine album chart, 14 platinum albums, 15 gold albums, and nine Grammy Awards. He sold 72 million records worldwide and is the only musician to hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart as both a vocalist ("This Guy's in Love with You", 1968) and with the aforementioned instrumental cut “Rise” in 1979.
In 2013, Alpert was also awarded the 2012 National Medal of Arts from former president Barack Obama.
One of the most surprising things in “Herb Alpert Is…” is when Alpert talks about starting out with some demo tapes he made and being rejected at several record companies. One was Specialty records whose A&R guy was Sonny Bono.
He told Alpert that his tapes weren’t very good and that he really wasn’t cut out for the music business and should consider another line of work. Alpert looks at the camera and says, “boy, I’m sure glad I didn’t listen to that guy.”
In addition to the variety of music featured in “Herb Alpert Is…” fans will be pleased to know a box set commemorating Alpert’s illustrious career—also titled “Herb Alpert Is…” is also being released on Oct. 2.
It’s a fitting tribute to Alpert whose music has brought joy to so many people. Best of all, it’s nice that Alpert is here to see all the love and appreciation for him.
Alpert also states in the documentary that his success took him by surprise and when he started out playing music at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs, he never imagined it would lead to such a rewarding life. He’s been humble and grateful ever since.
In addition, he refused to get caught up in the Hollywood “star” drama like so many other musicians have. For Alpert it was always about connecting with the music and his fans.
Today, Alpert performs when he wants to and tinkers around in the studio, but he mainly spends his time painting and creating sculptures. He has shown his amazing work as an abstract painter and sculptor, worldwide.
Through the Herb Alpert Foundation,
he has given significant philanthropic support of educational programs in the arts nationwide, from the Harlem School of the Arts and Los Angeles City College to Cal Arts and UCLA.
“Herb Alpert Is…” is an extraordinary documentary that truly honors Alpert’s stellar career.
Director John Scheinfeld said that he wanted to make a film that would celebrate, uplift and bring the audiences together the way that Herb’s music and philanthropy has done for decades.”
Be sure to catch my N2Entertainment.net movie talk segment on the Kitty O'Neal Show Fridays now at 6:20 p.m. on radio station KFBK 1530 AM and 93.1 FM.
Take A Look At This Trailer For "HERB ALPERT IS..."
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.