Suffice to say that without Herb Alpert today’s musical landscape would have a very different sound. It’s a bold statement but the man has had his hand in a multitude of endeavors- music, art, business and philanthropy- and turned each of them into successes, lifting others with him along the way.
Director John Scheinfeld (Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary, The US vs John Lennon) ably tells the story in Herb Alpert Is…, which premiered online this week. A career retrospective 3-CD set of the same name, featuring 63 tracks with his Tijuana Brass Band through 2019’s #1 Jazz album Over The Rainbow, also hits stores today.
Younger listeners may not realize their favorite tastemakers, including Questlove, Jimmy Jam and the late Notorious B.I.G., found a sympathetic groove with Alpert’s upbeat, happy and sometimes kitschy Latin-flavored songs, sampling them in their own hits, highlighted by Alpert’s unique phrasing and tone on his instrument of choice- the trumpet. Scheinfeld smartly finds the right voices to bring the narrative love letter to tell the story. His music “makes me happy,” Questlove says, noting he has a specific Herb Alpert playlist curated.
Add in Alpert’s founding of A&M Records with friend Jerry Moss, which furthered the careers of Carole King, Peter Frampton, The Carpenters, Janet Jackson and hundreds of others, plus a philanthropic foundation which has currently awarded over $75 million in grants to independent artists and organizations working in the arts and you’ve got a compelling story of a compelling man who hipsters today may only know from sorting through used vinyl record bins, marveling at the provocative album cover artwork, never diving into the music contained within.
Who is Herb Alpert? Well, that’s the question Scheinfeld asks the many people the now 85-year old philanthropist has befriended and influenced. Alpert himself even chimes in, letting Scheinfeld follow Alpert around as he sculpts, paints and plays the beloved trumpet, an instrument he still practices to this day. Jazz music, sculpting, painting, signing artists- it all comes down to one gut feeling for Alpert. “It has to feel good. If it hits me emotionally, I’m in.”
His long-run of joyous-sounding hits, “A Taste Of Honey,” “Spanish Flea,” and “Whipped Cream” provided a soothing distraction to the turbulent events taking place in the late ‘60s. Within the film, vintage clips of old Los Angeles, A&M’s headquarters at the old Charlie Chaplin movie lot and concert performances will warm old-time viewers and pull on their nostalgic heartstrings.
Herb Alpert Is… provides a fascinating glimpse into a renaissance man who rode to the top of the charts beginning in the ‘60s and continuing through today, selling an astonishing 72 million albums on his own, and creating a framework for other artists to bring their musical joy to multiple millions of fans, capped off with a charitable giving back to the arts.
Herb Alpert Is… is available via a nationwide virtual cinema release and globally on demand through Amazon, iTunes and other video-on-demand providers and Blu-Ray/DVD. A companion box set of the same name. Herb Alpert Is… will also be available on October 2nd, digitally, in LP format featuring a coffee table book and a five-piece 180 gram vinyl set, and on CD as a 3-disc set is available for preorder today here