Herb Alpert Talks "I Feel You", The Music Business, Being A Workaholic
Tue, 22 Feb 2011 07:44:18
If the name Herb Alpert isn't instantly familiar to you, well, let us introduce you to the man and the legend. By the time we're through, you will want to know more about Alpert.
100 million albums sold. Eight Grammys. Recipient of Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductee. 13 million records sold in 1966. Four albums in the top ten simultaneously. Top 10 singles in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Five No. 1 singles. That's Herb Alpert by the numbers.
Impressed? You should be. But we're not done. Alpert has worked with everyone from The Carpenters to The Police to Janet Jackson to Sheryl Crow. He's also the "A" in A&M Records, which was the largest and most successful independent record label in history. He produced Broadway's Angels in America. That's Herb Alpert, creatively-speaking.
That's just the tip of the Alpert iceberg. He is also a horn player extraordinaire and has just released I Feel You with his wife of 35 years, Lani Hall. The couple makes beautiful music together and I Feel You effectively blends their vocal and instrumental gifts in one fell swoop.
You're beyond impressed now, right? Well, we have a couple more facts to share about the incomparable, talented and tireless Alpert. He is also a prolific painter and sculptor; a designer, gardener, philanthropist and landscape architect. Is there nothing this man can't do?
ARTISTdirect.com News Editor and fellow music industry workaholic Amy Sciarretto picked Alpert's brain as he sounded off about not recording already definitive works, about rehearsing, about the music business model in the digital age, the spontaneity and malleability of jazz and why he and Hall perform the classics they do on I Feel You, which is out now.
Your resume is the stuff of legends. What accolade or experience are you most proud of?
I am proud that I was able to follow my passion.
Most people aren't able to do that – so many of my friends have to hit happy hour after work because they hate their jobs. I am happy I don't have to do that.
That is a sad commentary, isn't it? It would be so nice if we had a world filled with people who love waking up in the morning doing what their gut tells them to do and doing what they love to do.
You are a music business survivor. You have seen and done it all. But things are changing drastically in the recorded music realm. How does Herb Alpert see the music business in 2011 and beyond?
I think it is all about the Internet and you have to get through the maze. There are a lot of wonderful artists out there, but unfortunately, the music biz is tanking. But don't be discouraged; there are ways to be heard and seen and so many artists that deserve to be heard and seen.
How do you embrace the web with I Feel You?
On my website, for sure. We're actually in the process of constructing a new one that is seductive and contemporary where people will enjoy browsing and finding information about my music.
Tell us what we need to know about I Feel You and the songs you chose to interpret?
All the songs have to have my Good Housekeeping seal of approval before we put it on the CD. Various things have happened through it all. 'Cast Your Fate to the Wind' is a jazz record from the '60s. I liked the melody. I gravitate towards melody; it's the melody that haunts me and if I find myself whistling it, I am more apt to look at it. 'Fever' was a chance since I am not into recording songs that have had definitive recordings, and Peggy Lee's recording was definitive, but Lani came up with a way that doesn't sound like Peggy's. This has been our pursuit -- songs that are familiar and we put our own spin on them. That's the fun of doing what we're doing. There are two Beatles songs, and that's sacred ground, since The Beatles are The Beatles and most of us love them; they are definitive. It's hard to top them, but we wanted to bring a new energy to 'Blackbird' and 'Here Comes the Sun.' We were not treading near their territory. But it felt good.
With 'What Now My Love,' the drummer had a primitive rhythm in mind and I got a Grammy for that song, and I thought, 'I don't want to record it again' but then I extended the melody and played it twice as long and it felt interesting. Lani had a vision, of walking through Africa, like a Pied Piper with a trumpet.
'Something Cool' is a tune that I heard that I used to love. We changed gender; it was recorded in '50s. It is a good time recording and Lani felt I should sing a song. 'Till There Was You' has a great melody and bass rhythm pattern.
How do you not run out of gas and keep going this deep into your career?
I love to play. Jazz is a unique art form. Lani establishes the song and melody, and then everything that happens behind her is all spontaneous. It differs from night to night and even at rehearsals; it's always different and a challenge.
You still rehearse! That's something up and coming bands should take to heart.
Oh yeah, since we are still doing some concerts.
Lastly, tell us about your charity, The Herb Alpert Foundation.
The Herb Alpert Foundation is about bringing arts into schools, public and private. That is a key ingredient in developing the person. All kids should have that experience. If we cut arts programs in schools, then we are going in the wrong direction.
What's your favorite Herb Alpert song?