Trumpet legend Herb Alpert remembers a time when he tried to emulate his idols — Harry James, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis. That is, until he found his own sound. “You hear three notes and you know it's Herb Alpert,” cool jazz icon Davis once said of the younger musician.
“Ameriachi,” Alpert’s signature transnational variant, combines cool jazz with surf rock and mariachi. The trumpeter heard the distinctive Mexican genre in 1962 at a bullfight in Tijuana. Soon after, he released his breakthrough single “The Lonely Bull,” which the California artist recorded in his garage, playing all the instrumental parts himself and incorporating the taped cheers and jeers of a live bullfight crowd.
Fans of the Tijuana Brass sensation can hear his classic sound live at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday. With more than 72 million albums sold (even outselling The Beatles at one point), Alpert’s playlist is likely to include many of the crowd-pleasers from his long-spanning career — “Spanish Flea” (think "The Dating Game"), “This Guy’s In Love With You,” “A Taste of Honey,” “Rise” — along with tracks from “Over the Rainbow,” his album slated to drop next month. The 12-song collection includes the new single “Skinny Dip” and Alpert’s unique South-of-the-Border spin on familiar classics. “I like to find ways to make a song fresh,” says the 84-year-old Grammy winner. “No one needs to hear repeats of the original.”
Adding smoky flavor to the Latin-tinged tunes is vocalist Lani Hall of Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66 fame. Alpert’s wife since 1973, Hall is also known as the voice of the James Bond theme song “Never Say Never Again.” Besides their onstage collaborations, the two entertainers contribute significantly to a medley of philanthropic causes, largely supporting children and the arts. “I had a great opportunity,” says Alpert, who comes from a family of musicians and took up the trumpet when he was 8. “I like to see kids express their creativity at an early age and appreciate their own uniqueness.”
The musician and record producer has, for decades, garnered critical attention for his improvisations using a paintbrush and chisel as well. His predilection for imagery is demonstrated in the Westhampton show with the inclusion of projected footage from past performances and TV appearances.
For Alpert, making music and making art are not that different. Recalling a woman who thanked him for transporting her to Tijuana through his songs, he noted in a recent radio interview, how visual his music was for her. “That’s the type of music I want to make, music that takes you some place.”
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WHAT Herb Alpert and Lani Hall
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Friday, Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, 76 Main St.
INFO $71-$101; 631-288-1500, whbpac.org