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Veteran music man Herb Alpert, who plays The Granada Theatre on Friday, February 28, with his vocalist wife, Lani Hall, has made his presence known in these parts over the years, including concerts at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. In an odd, once-removed way, he also had a strong presence at the Lobero Theatre just last month — as a principle talking-head-style interviewee in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s premiere of the documentary Sérgio Mendes: In the Key of Joy!
Alpert’s and Mendes’s sagas intertwine intimately, going back 50-plus years. As Alpert explained in a recent interview: “I met Lani because of Sergio, who found Lani in Chicago and hired her for his new group. I auditioned [Mendes’s] Brasil ’66 with my partner Jerry Moss for A&M Records in 1966 and signed them to our company. So, thanks to Sergio, Lani and I have been married for 46 years.”
Any full-service description of Alpert comes with multiple hyphens and identity hats attached. Alpert is the “A” of the important American record label A&M and a philanthropist whose support of music education — and especially jazz — has had a bold impact on Cal Arts and, more recently, UCLA, which officially launched the Herb Alpert School of Music back in 2011. He has also owned jazz clubs, including L.A.’s Vibrato.
As a musician/trumpeter/Tijuana Brass leader, Alpert landed his cheerful instrumental ear candy tracks from the ’60s on the pop hit parade, not to mention the theme song for TV’s The Dating Game and, more recently, the smooth jazz format. Alpert’s easy-does-it instrumental music of the ’60s can be seen as a harbinger for the smooth jazz aesthetic (if aesthetic is the proper term).
Alpert’s latest album is last year’s Over the Rainbow, which fared well on the contemporary — aka “smooth” — jazz charts, and charts a smooth jazzy (light on the jazz) course on a song list including the classic title song; Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Fantasy”; Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana”; and more. Describing his concept going into the project, Alpert said, “I just always chose songs that I like to play. If it’s a familiar one, I try to present it in a way that gives it new life.”
As it happens, another connection to the new Mendes doc came after making that film, when director John Scheinfeld next turned his attentions to a doc on Alpert, who, at age 84, felt this was a ripe time to tell his story. “I think my story is pretty interesting,” asserted Alpert, a bit wryly, “since I, at one point in my life, was rich, famous, and miserable.”
It’s safe to say his self-described life situation continues, minus the “miserable.”
4•1•1 | Herb Alpert and Lani Hall play Friday, February 28, 7:30 p.m., at The Granada Theatre (1214 State St.). See granadasb.org.