Monday, July 16, 2007

Herb Alpert - Brentwood Magazine 2006


Music's Herb Alpert Crafts Life-Size Sculptures

While preparing for this interview, I came to understand - by way of a question from my 16-year-old football and lacrosse-playing 11th grader - the influence that one man has had and continues to have on the soundtrack of several generations. The conversation went like this:

"Who are you interviewing?"

"Someone you wouldn't know."

"Try me."

"Okay, his name is Herb Alpert. He -"

"Yeah, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I know."
With that, my son was off with his buddies.

"It's nice to know the younger generation knows who I am," Alpert says after I relay the story. "It's always nice to be recognized and appreciated for your work."

Today, being recognized for Alpert has as much to do with his audience's eyes as with its ears. Alpert's series of "spiritual totems," which were unveiled at New York City's Bryant Park this fall, remains on exhibit at the Pasadena Museum of California Art, the Pasadena Civic Auditorium Plaza and the Paseo Colorado complex.

"I have been busy with my artwork," Alpert says. "Painting and doing sculptures is something I have been doing since early in my musical career."

The totems were inspired by those of the Tlingit tribe of Alaska. Alpert created them during a stay in the Pacific Northwest.

"These spirit totems are just that - very spiritual in nature," Alpert says. "When I start in this work, I'm not completely certain what form it will take, what size it will be. Artwork and music are very similar that way. You may start one place and wind up someplace completely different."

For those who know Alpert solely for his music genius in the areas of composing, arranging, and performing, his turn as a visual artist might come as a surprise, which Alpert understands. But, he says, his art and his music come from the same source: a desire to be happy and to create something the world can be a part of.

"That's what music and art have always been about for me," he explains. "To play my music and do my art and be satisfied. I never set out to be famous. I always thought it would be nice if my work could make others happy along the way."

If numbers are the gauge, then Alpert has succeeded in making people happy for more than four decades. In 1962, Alpert and business partner Jerry Moss founded A&M Records, which has been responsible for some of the world's most influential pop artists, including the Carpenters, Sheryl Crow, Quincy Jones, the Police and Sting. But its first musical sensation was the Alpert's Tijuana Brass, which has had countless number one hits. Alpert, the Tijuana Brass and Moss boast six Grammy Awards among them.

"I've always been pulled to musical acts that had passion about their sound," Alpert says of those with whom he has worked and to whom he likes to listen. "It's like when we signed the Carpenters. They were just passionate and had a unique sound due to Karen's voice and Richard's amazing arrangements. They were just a brother and sister throwing everything they had into their musical gift, and it was very appealing."

Alpert's instincts were correct: The Carpenters went on to become one of A&M's greatest success stories.

And while he has become deeply involved in the visual arts, Alpert remains committed to music. A compilation of recently rediscovered musical tracks have been retooled and released as an album called "Lost Treasures." Putting "Treasures" together meant that Alpert had to add layers to songs recorded decades ago.

"The process of creating this was interesting because we discovered the lost tracks," Alpert says. "So we went into the studio, and I added my trumpet parts to the already existing music. It was an exciting creative process."

Alpert is also re-releasing his famous "Whipped Cream & Other Delights," complete with a new whipped-cream cover girl.

"The cover of that album back in the late 1960s was really pushing things," Alpert says of the image of a nude woman covered completely in whipped cream. "It was fun, and so we decided with the new release, we'd update it with a new whipped-cream girl."

From whipped-cream girls and smooth-listening music to paintings and sculptures, Alpert remains an icon - for all ages.

"It's all just a joy," he says.

I grew up listening to Herb Alpert and probably had my first crush on the woman from the original "Whipped Cream" album cover that my parents tried (unsuccessfully, I might add) to hide from my 5 siblings and me. Our family spent many nights at home listening to Herb or musicians that were in some way influenced by him. To interview him after being a child of the late 1960s was a true honor. He is a great man, humble and appreciative to those who helped make him successful. He has a real love for his fans, which I found refreshing.

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