Trumpeter Herb Alpert.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY HERB ALPERT
Herb Alpert has spent the past 50 years painting, sculpting, and making new music every day. The moment he wakes up, he decides what he feels like doing — some days he does all three.
“It’s something that gives my life energy,” Alpert says.
That’s why the Grammy winner and esteemed trumpeter, 88, continues to thrive in the spotlight. “My wife [Lani Hall] and I are doing about 50 concerts a year.” One of those concerts is a sold-out show Feb. 24 at the Annenberg Theater during the Palm Springs International Jazz Festival. He will also showcase his artwork Feb. 20 and 22 during Modernism Week at his 12,000-square-foot private warehouse in Palm Springs. Tickets are available through the Modernism Week website, and the location will be revealed upon purchase.
The exhibition will showcase a variety of Alpert’s paintings and sculptures. “I put the pieces up that felt appropriate for the exhibit,” he says. “I have over a thousand paintings, and maybe 500 sculptures. So I had a lot to choose from.” Alpert began working on his exhibition three years ago. Hall helped him select the art pieces to showcase.
Herb Alpert with one of his sculptures.
A 14-foot sculpture of a trumpet player will be displayed in front of the warehouse. It took Alpert a very long time to sculpt, he shares, because he wanted to convey the “right feeling.” People often spend too much time trying to figure out the message that an artist is trying to express, Alpert says. For him, it’s all about the emotion.
“It’s just a piece of art,” Alpert says. “It either touches you or it doesn’t, and you can’t be tucked into it. Using your brain too hard to find the reasons is not going to work. Just let it happen. Let it be.”
Making music and art gives him purpose, he enthuses. Alpert’s 97-year-old sister still asks why he continues to do all of this if he doesn’t need to. His response: He chooses to stay active because it gives him pleasure to make music and art that bring people joy. “Everyone seems to leave our concerts with a good feeling,” he says. “That’s what I like. I have this gift that I like to pass on.”
Alpert’s exhibition is more than a standard gallery exhibition, says Chip Tom, curator of Heather James Fine Art in Palm Springs. He has worked with Alpert for seven years and produced art shows for him from China to Wyoming to St. Louis. Ask Tom, and he’ll tell you working with Alpert is an honor. He respects the artistry. Alpert’s exhibition will provide “a view into the creativity and mind of the artist,” Tom says.
That creativity was sparked during a music appreciation class in elementary school. When deciding what to play, Alpert approached a table covered in many different instruments and felt drawn to the trumpet. When he tried to play the instrument, it didn’t make a sound. But after learning the proper technique, it felt like the trumpet — and its soulful sound — gave him a voice.
“I’m a card-carrying introvert,” Alpert says. “That trumpet was speaking for me, and I fell in love with that whole concept. The rest is history.”
Alpert's paintings and sculptures.
While in high school, he began to make money playing music; then one day, he got lucky.
“I found an amazing partner, Jerry Moss,” he says. “The two of us started A&M Records [in 1962], and we never had a contract between us. We never had a written agreement, we did it all on the handshake.” Within a decade, A&M grew to become the world’s largest independent record company.
Alpert’s second wife, Hall, was an original member of A&M Records group Brasil ’66. They married in 1973, becoming a powerhouse performance duo. In celebration of their 50th anniversary, the couple went on tour last year. Hall will accompany him during the Palm Springs International Jazz Festival. To keep each concert fresh and keep crowds engaged, they like to play each song in a new and unique way. When they perform a throwback melody from Alpert’s Tijuana Brass days, for example, they try to bring something different to the table — that constant innovation doesn’t tire Alpert. “I love to be spontaneous,” he says. “That’s what jazz is. It’s all about freedom, and that’s what I try to bring to each time I play.”
It’s a mantra that also rings true in Alpert’s large-scale sculptures and paintings, curator Chip Tom says. “An artist is someone who is compelled, who’s obsessed to make art every day. That’s the sign of a true artist. And Herb is that kind of artist.”