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Herb Alpert still performing, finds his songs in pop culture

Herb Alpert shares WAC stage with wife Lani Hall by Monica Hooper | September 11, 2022 at 1:00 a.m.
Both legends in their respective fields, Herb Alpert and Lani Hall will perform a mix of American standards, Brazilian jazz, some Beatles and classic Tijuana Brass and Brazil ’66 songs during their performance Sept. 15 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. The show also includes a large video wall that displays hundreds of classic photos, videos and memorabilia from Hall and Alpert’s careers. (Courtesy Photo/Dewey Nicks)

Herb Alpert is still making waves even in his 80s. The iconic trumpeter -- who's scored nine Grammy Awards, 15 Gold albums, 14 Platinum albums, sold more than 72 million records and co-founded A&M records, one of the most successful independent record labels of all time -- is now reaching Gen Z crowds.

"Somebody on TikTok used one of my songs that I did 60 years ago or 55 years ago in the 'Whipped Cream and Other Delights' album called 'Lady Fingers.' And it kind of went viral on TikTok. I got this message last week. It was unbelievable -- it's been overwhelming even to talk about it -- but I heard that song on the various formats like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, all the others. There were 100 million streams, which I don't even know what to do with that number," he says with a laugh.

His latest release, "Catch the Wind," hit No. 2 on the Billboard Current Contemporary Jazz Album Charts while his 1979 hit, "Rise" which was famously sampled in Biggie Small's mega-hit, "Hypnotize," has hit the charts again after being included on the soundtrack for the movie "Spiderhead."

Alpert says that he's just as surprised when his older songs reappear in pop culture.

"I thought 'Rise' was gonna be a hit. It was one of the few records that I recorded that I thought to myself, 'This is really good.' I like that there's something about it that feels good because I think all music is about a feeling," he says. "I don't think you can identify music on the word level. You can't really give a reason why you like a certain record or you like a certain artist or you like a certain painting or sculpture. ... It's all like that other dimension, which I like so much. Art is a mystery. I don't think we listen with our ears. We listen with our souls. And when it touches us, it touches us."

Even after being a household name for more than 60 years, Alpert is warm and open as he discusses his career and his upcoming visit to the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. When he performs he takes questions from the audience between songs and shares photos and videos from his expansive career with the Tijuana Brass project and with his wife, two-time Grammy Award-winning vocalist and producer, Lani Hall. The two have been married for 49 years and performing together even longer. Under her name, they released an album, "Seasons of Love," in April.

After two years of not touring, he says that they are happy to share songs and stories again.

"We usually do around 50 concerts a year for the last 14 years. I like playing with our group. The band is great. I love hearing my angel wife sing. She's a world-class singer -- she was the lead singer with Brazil 66 when I met her," he adds. "There's something about the process that just is something that I love doing. I like the spontaneity, and I like making other people happy with the music that I've made. It's like a dual win for me because I'm happy doing it. And there are a lot of people that get pleasure out of hearing it."

Alpert is also active in helping others to gain access to and continue their artistic careers as well through the Herb Alpert Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to support organizations that promote compassion and well-being. The organization has provided grants to various groups working on hunger, homelessness, veterans' issues and more. The foundation supports arts education, specifically through the Harlem School of the Arts by contributing $7 million since 2010 and saving the school from closing its doors permanently. This contribution also established an endowment to provide financial aid and access to the arts to families in need.

His foundation also awards money to "risk-taking mid-career artists," who are on the "road less traveled."

"Those are the ones I gravitate toward as artists," Alpert says. "Those artists in the mid-career, you know, they didn't get all the attention that maybe they would have gotten if they tried to appeal to more people, but they're not trying to appeal. They're just trying to create and do their thing, and I think they deserve a little a helping hand to see whether they can take their art form to that next level.

"I feel very fortunate. I don't want to sound like Mr. Humble, but I had this opportunity when I was 8 years old that has taken me way beyond my imagination. And I just feel like it's important to help artists because I think artists are the heart and soul of this country and the world."

  photo  "You gotta be honest, you don't let anything fester and then frustrate you without getting the feelings out. Be honest and be kind," says Herb Alpert on how to make a marriage and professional partnership last. He and his wife of 49 years, Lani Hall, with whom he's shared the stage for decades, will perform at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville. (Courtesy Photo/Dewey Nicks)
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