HERB ALPERT GIVES BACK

Legendary musician Herb Alpert will take us inside his  career and his work fostering education in the arts.

Aired on October 18 and December 26, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

IT'S PROBABLY SAFE TO SAY THAT LEGENDARY TRUMPET PLAYER HERB ALPERT IS BEST KNOWN FOR A MUSIC CAREER THAT EARNED HIM FIVE NUMBER ONE HITS, NINE GRAMMY AWARDS, 15 GOLD ALBUMS AND 14 PLATINUM ALBUMS AMONG MANY OTHER ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND ALSO PERHAPS HAVING COFOUNDED A&M RECORDS, ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL INDEPENDENT MUSIC LABELS IN HISTORY.

HIS PHILANTHROPIC WORK WHICH HE HAS LARGELY CARRIED OUT THROUGH THE HERB ALPERT FOUNDATION.

I RECENTLY HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO TALK WITH ALPERT AND I BEGAN OUR CONVERSATION ABOUT SKING HI.

I FELT I HAD TO GIVE BACK.

I HAD THIS OPPORTUNITY WHEN I WAS 8 YEARS OLD IN MY GRAMMAR SCHOOL.

THERE WAS A MUSIC CLASS, WASN'T A MUSIC APPRECIATION CLASS, BUT A CLASS THAT HAD A BUNCH MUCH INSTRUMENTS ON A TABLE.

I COULD GO AND PICK UP ANY ONE AND PLAY.

TUBA, TROMBONE.

I PICKED UP THE TRUMPET.

YOU KNOW, I COULDN'T MAKE A SOUND OUT OF IT.

I THOUGHT YOU JUST BLOW HOT AIR INTO THE TRUMPET AND THERE IS IS THIS SOUND.

IT'S NOT.

TOOK AWHILE FOR ME TO DO IT.

BUT WHEN I DID, IT WAS SPEAKING FOR ME BECAUSE I'M AN INTROVERT BASICALLY.

AND AS A CHILD, I WAS PRETTY MUTE.

SO WHEN THIS HORN WAS TALKING TO F FOR ME, THAT WAS GREAT.

OBVIOUSLY IT CHANGED MY LIFE, AND I THINK THE ARTS ARE JUST CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT FOR KIDS.

WHETHER THEY'RE DANCING, POETRY, SCULPTING, PAINTING, WHATEVER IT HAPPENS TO BE, AND THEY GET A FEELING OF, HUH, MAYBE I'M NOT SO BAD.

THEY START GETTING INTO THEIR OWN UNIQUENESS AND IF THEY CAN DO THAT, HOPEFULLY -- HOPEFULLY -- THEY CAN APPRECIATE THE UNIQUENESS IN OTHERS.

WELL, LISTEN, ONE OF THE THINGS THAT THE FOUNDATION DOES IS GIVE OUT THE HERB ALPERT AWARDS AND THE ARTS, KNOWN AS THE HHIA.

HAS ANYBODY CALLED IT HI, YA?

FIRST TIME I'VE HEARD THAT.

THAT'S PRETTY GOOD.

TALK ABOUT IT.

WHO STARTED IT, AND WHAT'S THE CRITERIA WHO GETS THE AWARD?

THESE ARE ARTISTS, THEY'RE NOT QUITE AT THE FINISH LINE YET.

THAT'S UNUSUAL IN ITSELF BECAUSE MOST OF THESE AWARDS GO TO YOUNG ARTISTS.

THAT'S TRUE.

ALSO, THESE ARTISTS ARE -- THE ONES THAT GO TO THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED, YOU KNOW.

I LIKE THOSE ARTISTS.

I LIKE THE MILES DAVIS, THE CHARLIE PARKERS OF THE WORLD, THE ONES THAT DID THEIR OWN THING.

IF YOU LIKED IT, GREAT.

IF YOU DIDN'T, THEY DIDN'T CARE.

I READ A QUOTE FROM YOU, THE ARTIST YOU LIKE, THAT YOU LOOK FOR, NOT THE ONES WHO WORK OUTSIDE THE BOX, BUT THE ONES WHO ASK, WHAT BOX?

WHY DO THEY ATTRACT YOU SO MUCH?

I THINK ART IS A MYSTERY.

I THINK THE WHOLE THING IS A MYSTERY.

WHAT DOES IT SAY THAT ENGAGES YOU WHEN YOU SEE A PAINTING OR SCULPTURE, YOU KNOW?

IT'S THAT THING YOU CAN'T DESCRIBE.

I DON'T THINK YOU CAN DESCRIBE MUSIC, YOU KNOW.

TAKE AN ARTIST THAT YOU LOVE AND YOU SAY, WHAT DO I LIKE ABOUT HIM OR HER?

IT'S HARD TO PUT YOUR FINGER ON IT.

I THINK ART IS ALL ABOUT A FEEL.

AND IF YOU TRY TOO HARD TO ANALYZE IT, IF YOU TRY TO GET REALLY COMPLICATED ABOUT IT, STAND IN FRONT OF A JACKSON POLLACK PAINTING AND ANALYZE IT, YOU'RE LOST, IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

IT'S ALL ABOUT A FEEL.

YOU HAVE TO TAKE IT IN FROM ANOTHER ANGLE.

YOU PLAYED THE HARLEM SCHOOL OF THE ARTS.

YOU LIVE IN L.A.

THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY.

WHAT WAS THE CONNECTION?

THE CONNECTION WAS MY MOM WAS BORN IN LOWER EAST SIDE.

SO THERE IS A LITTLE BIT OF NEW YORK IN MY DNA.

I SAW THIS ARTICLE IN 'THE NEW YORK TIMES.'

THEY WERE CLOSING, AND OUT OF FUNDS.

DID SOME RESEARCH ON IT AND, YOU KNOW, WE DID WHAT WE HAD TO DO.

OPENED THE DOORS.

THE DOORS WERE GOING TO CLOSE.

OH, YEAH.

THEY WERE CLOSING.

SO YOU SAVED T YOU GOT IT OPEN.

MORE THAN THAT, IT REVIVED, RIGHT?

AND YOU'RE STILL INVOLVED.

IT'S FLOURISHING.

IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL.

FOLKS HAVE TO GO BY AND SEE IT.

IT'S AN AMAZING PROJECT.

STARTING IN AUGUST WE'RE GOING TO UPDATE IT.

IT'S GOING TO GO UP INTO THE 21st CENTURY, WE'RE GOING TO PUT A LITTLE TECHNICAL SPIN ON IT, ACOUSTICALLY, THE LOOK IS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT.

NOT THAT -- IT'S GOOD THE WAY IT IS, BUT I JUST WANT TO TAKE IT UP AND MAKE IT MORE MODERN.

I WONDER IF WE COULD TURN TO YOUR MUSIC FOR A SECOND.

FIRST OF ALL, I WAS STRUCK BY A QUOTE FROM MILES DAVIS.

HE SAID, YOU LISTEN TO THREE NOTES, AND YOU KNOW IT'S HERB ALPERT PLAYING.

HOW DID -- HIGH PRAISE.

HOW DID IT MAKE ME FEEL?

YEAH, HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL?

WHEN KIDS ASK ME, ANYONE ASKS ME WHAT'S THE SECRET?

YOU HAVE TO FIND YOUR OWN VOICE.

HOW DID YOU FIND YOURS?

WELL, THROUGH A SERIES OF -- LOOK, I WAS DRAFTED IN THE ARMY.

I LIED MY WAY INTO THINKING TELLING EVERYONE THAT THE ONLY THING I KNOW HOW TO DO IS PLAY THE TRUMPET, PERIOD.

I'M NOT -- I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ELSE.

SO THEY GAVE ME THIS M.O. AS A TRUMPET PLAYER.

THEY SENT ME TO BAND SCHOOL IN FORT KNOX, KENTUCKY.

AND PRIOR TO THAT I WAS LIKE, YOU KNOW, THE NUMBER ONE TRUMPET PLAYER IN L.A., ALWAYS THE FIRST TRUMPET PLAYER IN MY SCHOOLS.

I GO TO THIS BAND SCHOOL AND THERE WERE 12 GUYS THAT WERE BETTER THAN ME.

THEY PLAY HIGHER, FASTER, LOUDER, THEY COULD PLAY BETTER JAZZ.

THEY WERE JUST -- IT WAS AN EYE OPENER.

I THOUGHT TO MYSELF, IF I EVER WAS GOING TO BE A PROFESSIONAL, I'D HAVE TO COME UP WITH MY OWN WAY OF DOING IT.

AND THEN I HEARD LES PAUL, 'HOW HIGH THE MOON' THIS RECORD HE HAD WITH HIS WIFE.

HE WAS LAYERING HIS GUITAR ON THIS TRACK, THE SOUND OF MAYBE THREE OR FOUR DIFFERENT LAYERS OF HIS OWN GUITAR.

AND THE STOUND WAS GREAT.

SO I HAD TWO TAPE MACHINES AT HOME AND I STARTED FOOLING AROUND WITH THE TRUMPET, GOING FROM ONE MACHINE TO THE NEXT.

BINGO, I HAD THIS SOUND THAT WAS LIKE THE GENESIS OF A TIJUANA BRASS SOUND.

♪ ♪ ♪

THAT WAS THE LONELY BULL THAT STARTED A&M RECORDS IN 1962.

THINGS STARTED ROLLING.

I WAS GETTING CARDS AND LETTERS FROM PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD.

IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.

LIKE I SAID --

AND A LOT OF PEOPLE INCLUDING MY FATHER THOUGHT YOU WERE HISPANIC.

OH, I DID MYSELF FOR A WHILE.

YOU KNOW, I USED TO WATCH BULL FIGHTS IN TIJUANA, AND THERE WAS A BRASS BAND IN THE STANDS.

I NEVER HEARD MARIACHI MUSIC, BUT THERE WAS A BRASS BAND IN THE STANDS THAT INTRIGUED ME.

BECAUSE EVERY TIME THE BULL OR SOME OTHER PART OF THE EVENT WOULD COME OUT, THEY'D GO, THAT-BA-YANG, SOMETHING WOULD HAPPEN.

I GOT CAUGHT UP IN THAT AND I TRIED TO COMMUNICATE THAT IN A RECORD, YOU KNOW?

WELL, LISTEN, THE CAREER IS STILL GOING STRONG.

I HAD THE PLEASURE TO LISTEN TO ONE OF YOUR PERFORMANCES IN YOUR CITY ONE TOUR, YOU WENT TO FIVE CITIES AND PERFORMED A BUNCH OF TIMES.

IT WAS A TWO-HOUR PERFORMANCE, AND YOU WERE AS GOOD AS EVER.

I MEAN SINCERELY, I'M NOT JUST SAYING THAT.

IT WAS SOLD OUT.

TWO HOURS.

WHERE DO YOU GET THE MUSICAL AND PHYSICAL FITNESS TO DO THAT?

AND HOW DO YOU KEEP THE INSPIRATION?

WELL, FIRST OFF, I'M PASSIONATE ABOUT IT.

I LOVE TO PLAY.

IT GIVES ME A THRILL TO BE ABLE TO DO THAT.

BUT ODDLY ENOUGH, IT IS EASIER FOR ME TO PLAY NOW AT 84 -- I AM 84, YES, I AM.

I CAN'T BELIEVE IT MYSELF, BUT I AM.

YOU GET A BIRTHDAY EVERY THREE MONTHS.

I'M GETTING A BIRTHDAY EVERY THREE MONTHS.

IT SEEMS LIKE IT.

I DON'T KNOW.

BUT ANYWAYS, I GUESS I'M JUST GETTING MORE OUT OF THE INSTRUMENT WITH LESS EFFORT.

IT'S BEEN BEAUTIFUL.

ALL RIGHT.

WELL, WE HAVE TO END IT THERE, HERB.

THANK YOU SO MUCH, ONCE AGAIN, FOR JOINING US.

IT'S SUCH A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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