Malibu Seen: Rising to the Occasion

If you are like many boomers, you might still be processing the news that Ringo Starr recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

Ready for more stat shock? Well, believe it or not, our own trumpet icon Herb Alpert has just turned 80 and is still wowing the crowds, just like the old days.

Herb and his wife, vocalist Lani Hall, are set to hit Pepperdine on Sept. 25 as part of their jazzy 2015 world tour. First, they got a taste of the Napa Valley. Then, they were on a roll in Tokyo. After heading back to Malibu, it’s on to Tucson, Austin, Chicago, Rochester and Northern California, all before taking a well-deserved holiday break in December.

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass were spinning on every turntable in town.

With favorites like “The Lonely Bull” and “Spanish Flea,” as well as solo hits like “This Guy’s in Love with You” and “Rise,” Herb has sold more than 72 million albums.

He got his start in the 1960s and went on to co-found A&M records. Together with partner Jerry Moss, he signed some of the top acts in the industry. 

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One of them was red-hot Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘66. Herb not only got a successful new sensation, he also gained a lasting love. The group’s young singer, Lani Hall, became Herb’s wife. They have now been together for 41 years. Lani can also be heard on Herb’s latest CD, “In the Mood,” which serves up their own smooth spin on everything from “Chattanooga Choo Choo” to “Don’t Cry” and “Spanish Harlem.”

So how did a Jewish kid from Boyle Heights make his way to Malibu and become an international superstar along the way? Herb tells Malibu Seen, it was a combination of preparation and timing.

The legendary local music man had no formal training, which he sees as a blessing. “There’s an advantage to that because you don’t have to follow rules,” he explains. “You can be freer, and that’s very natural for me.” 

As far as preparation goes, his enthusiasm started at an early age. “I first started playing when I was eight years old,” he recalls. “My school had a music appreciation class and I was lucky enough to pick up a trumpet.” Before long, he was marching to the beat of a collegiate drum, blowing his horn as a member of USC’s prestigious Trojan Marching Band. “I was very shy,” he explains. “This was a way for me to express myself.” 

It wasn’t long before he formed his own group. It had a distinctive Latin sound, inspired by the mariachi bands he heard at bullfights in Tijuana. So, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass was born. 

Soon after, he was traveling the world and hasn’t missed a beat since. When he’s not playing, recording or touring, he’s painting, sculpting or picking up prizes, including multiple Grammy Awards. In 2013, he was honored by President Obama and received the National Medal of Arts Award. He’s also raised millions of dollars for arts education through his Herb Alpert Foundation. 

As for the secret to his success, the legendary musician says, “You can’t just talk about what you’d like to do, you have to love it and passion is the key.”

Herb Alpert and Lani Hall will perform at the Smothers Theatre at Pepperdine on Sept. 25. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit arts.pepperdine.edu.

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