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Herb Alpert heads to Victoria feeling better than ever

The musician turns 88 on Friday, shortly before the former Tijuana Brass bandleader embarks on what many assume will be his final tour of Canada.
Lani Hall and Herb Alpert will perform three shows on Vancouver Island next week. DEWEY NICKS


Where: McPherson Playhouse, 3 Centennial Sq.

When: Friday, April 7, 8 p.m.

Tickets: $68.25 from or 250-386-6121

Herb Alpert turns 88 years old Friday, shortly before the former Tijuana Brass bandleader embarks on what many assume will be his final tour of Canada.

The good news for fans of the iconic trumpet player is that Alpert doesn’t subscribe to career-finale prognostications. The legendary Los Angelino said he feels great — quitting hasn’t entered into his thinking as he prepares for a Vancouver Island tour with his wife of 49 years, Lani Hall, that gets underway Tuesday at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre.

“I’m not taking a victory lap,” Alpert said during a recent interview with the Times Colonist. “Lani and I do it for the reasons that are perfect — we love performing, and we love playing our music. It’s a little bit different every night, created in the moment. The thing that seduces me about this whole thing is that when on stage, I’m in that exact moment of my life. That’s such a great place to be.”

The couple also perform April 5 at Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre, prior to landing at the McPherson Playhouse on April 7. The Victoria date is rescheduled from a tour that was cancelled due to the pandemic three years ago.

Alpert encountered a “strange awakening” during the pandemic, much of which he spent sequestered in his Malibu estate and in a constant state of creation, adding to his output of more than 1,000 paintings and several hundred sculptures. “I have a studio and I paint and I sculpt. But I also wanted to stay in shape playing the horn. So I started reflecting on some of the teachers I had through the years, when I had one of those a-ha moments.”

He explained how, when he was a teenager, his trumpet teacher would always put his hand on his diaphragm when he hit a high note, which Alpert said he never paid much attention to until his recent period of reflection. “This guy was trying to tell me something that was really special.” Alpert said he finally took heed of the advice, 70 years later, and now feels he’s playing with renewed energy.

“It has been really good for me. It has opened up another door that I didn’t really realize I had.”

His desire to acquire new skills at the age of 87 might seem redundant, given all that he has accomplished during his enduring, staggeringly robust career. Fourteen million-selling recordings, a Tony Award, and eight Grammy Awards barely scratch the surface of what Alpert has accomplished, from a statistical standpoint.

A number of albums credited to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass stayed on the Billboard sales charts for at least a year following their release, with 1965’s Whipped Cream & Other Delights spending nearly three years inside the Top 40. His popularity was such that Alpert made it into the Guinness Book of World Records in 1966 for having five albums simultaneously within the Top 20. Alpert and Co. even outsold The Beatles, of all groups, that same year.

He seems to have moved well beyond worrying about sales data, even though he has sold more than 72 million records worldwide. Though he’s reported to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars — A&M Records, which Alpert co-founded with Jerry Moss in 1962, was bought by PolyGram for $500 million US in 1989 — very little about Alpert is ostentatious. He’s the essence of laid-back cool.

He donates generously and frequently through the Herb Alpert Foundation, which he co-founded with Hall, the former Brasil ‘66 singer. The couple often choose schools and programs for young musicians as beneficiaries. That’s a big area of focus for Alpert, who has long been a passionate advocate for education in all its forms. A&M Records became the most successful independent record company in modern history with Alpert and Moss at the helm, and its was a testament to their artist-friendly approach.

Art fist, sales second, was their approach. “I usually gravitate to the artist that took the road less travelled, the ones who were doing it for the passion of doing it. Most of the great musicians I’ve met in my life have had a similar tact. Miles Davis just played his stuff, and if you didn’t like it he didn’t give a shit.”

Alpert travelled in elite artistic circles throughout his carer, developing long friendships with Davis, Burt Bacharach and Stan Getz. All of three have passed away, but he thinks of them often as his playing days wind down.

“Stan always said he never played a note he didn’t mean. It’s important to be able to express yourself in the way it comes out naturally, without trying to knock anyone out. An artist is an artist — you don’t need to be No. 1 on the charts. You have to speak from the inside. If you’re going to paint, if you’re going to sculpt, play music or act, it has to be an internal thing that oozes out.”

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