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Herb Alpert: Come Fly with Me

Nicholas F. Mondello By

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With his latest recording, Come Fly with Me, legendary award-winning trumpeter, producer, artist and overall Renaissance Man, Herb Alpert takes the listener on a melody-rich, groove-embellished artistic journey, offering marvelous musical perspectives and insights with both familiar and exciting new sonic landscapes.

All About Jazz: Herb, on behalf of all About Jazz, it's great speaking with you again. Thanks for taking time to speak with us about Come Fly with Me.

Herb Alpert: My pleasure, Nick.

AAJ: First off, as a fellow trumpet player, I have to tell you that you sound great on it -like you're having a lot of fun with this particular album.

HA: Thanks. Well, I feel good and I'm having a good time -that's the important ingredient. I have fun on every album. You know, every time I finish a project—an album, or whatever you call it these days, I say "You know, it's the best thing I've ever done."

AAJ: It sounds it.

HA: Yeah, I used to bore my partner, Jerry Moss at A&M Records with that comment. I try to do my best; to do things that I haven't done on previous albums. So, yes, this is "the best one I've ever done."

AAJ: There are really interesting and unique grooves on this album with some reggae things and other unique types of rhythmic textures.

HA: Yeah. We wanted to do that and explore things. I think we succeeded.

AAJ: Was your wife, Lani Hall on this album.

HA: No, she wasn't this time. She was on the last one, In the Mood.

AAJ: Who produced the album?

HA: You're talking to him.

AAJ: I've got to ask you about "Take the 'A' Train" and the incredibly unique way you present it. I've never heard it that way before. It floored me.

HA: Yeah, "Take the 'A' Train" is really cool. I've always remembered the story about Billy Strayhorn -that he hated Nat "King" Cole's version of "Lush Life." Years ago in the 60s, I was walking down the sidewalk on Sunset Boulevard and I ran into Charlie Warren, who had written "I Only Have Eyes for You." Now at that time, The Flamingos had the #1 record in the country with it. I said to him: "You've got to be happy, Charlie. You have the #1 record in the country." And, he said: "I hate that record!"

AAJ: How did the unique groove on "Take the 'A' Train" come about? It's in 3, isn't it? Was it your idea?

HA: Yes. I've had that idea in mind for awhile. I was working on it. And, I played it on the horn for Mike Shapiro and Hussein Jiffry, who played drums and bass on it. Every so often, I do something and I say to myself: "Man, that's really good." To my knowledge, it's never been played or recorded that way.

AAJ: In my humble opinion, I think that the arrangement and presentation on that cut is so unique, it's Grammy®-worthy. That's no "smoke."

HA: Thanks. I like to take familiar songs and present them in a different way that they haven't been played before. I feel really good about that one.

AAJ: You composed a handful of originals on Come Fly with Me.

HA: Yeah, "Love Affair," "Windy City," "Cheeky," "Walkin' Tall" and "Night Ride" are mine.

AAJ: And, you have GAS tunes on there such as "Blue Skies," "Come Fly with Me" and you close with "Danny Boy."

HA: Well, "Danny Boy," you know, is public domain. And "Come Fly with Me"—Sinatra is the one who really highlighted that song. It's a great Jimmy Van Heusen song. What I wanted to do with it was sort of take it to the Caribbean. So, after the bridge, I have the pans—the steel drums playing.

AAJ: That's a great touch.

HA: I don't know if I told you this the last time, but, back in 1962 when I had "Lonely Bull"—it was the Top 10 record that started A&M Records—I got a letter from a lady from Germany who wrote: "Dear Mr. Alpert: Thank you for sending me on this vicarious trip to Tijuana!" So, at the time, I chuckled, as you just did, and I thought to myself: "Man, you know, that music was so visual to her that it transported her." I like to make visual music, as opposed to music that you'd hear in the elevator. I mean that that music is not good or not bad. It's just there, you know.

AAJ: It's funny you mention that because I listened to "Night Ride" many times and that's exactly the same kind of impression I got. It's highly visual and stimulating music. It reminded me of film music.

HA: My wife, Lani, wants me to do that. She says my music has that visual quality. I've had my songs in movies, but, I can't or want to write to time or anything.

AAJ: Well, with the art that you also do, the visual sense is probably in your DNA. By the way, who did the unique cover art, you?

HA: No, it was done by Brian Porizek. He had a great concept there with the birds flying and, when she saw it, Lani had the idea to add the trumpet. So, the birds are flying from the bell of the trumpet. It's a nice touch.

AAJ: You do one of The Beatles tunes, "Something" on this recording.

HA: Yes, I like that song and I liked George Harrison. George recorded for A&M and was a lovely guy. I think that "Something" is a very memorable tune. It has one of those memorable melodies that stick, you know.

AAJ: Who else was on this date?

HA: Mike Shapiro was the drummer, Hussein Jiffry on bass, Bil Cantos on keyboards—it's the same group that Lani and I have been playing with for years. Eduardo del Barrio did the string arrangements.

AAJ: Who did the unique EVI thing on "Something?" It's another really unique touch.

HA: That was Judd Miller. He's an excellent musician. He's the First Call guy out here on that instrument. He's actually an ex-trumpet player who went to the EVI.

AAJ: I want to go back for a second and ask you about "Danny Boy." It's the last cut on this recording. On your last album, you closed with another "finale," if you will, a beautiful rendition of "America the Beautiful" Pattern perhaps?

HA: Well, that's a tune that people just seem to love. You hear umpteen versions of that song and it always works. What is it about that song that's so seductive? As you know, I paint and sculpt and play the horn and it's one of the things that I'm intrigued with: What is that thing about a song that makes something interesting for people to listen to? What is that element? You can't describe it. You know, one time I played with Louis Armstrong in Monterey one night—I was the moderator of a show there. Louis was uniquely special and he goes back to the Beginning. What was it about the way he played that got me? Well, let's see: his personality really came through the horn. I'll tell you that. Every note he played had passion in it. How do you describe it? How do you describe what Miles Davis was doing with John Coltrane? It's magic.

AAJ: Yes, it is.

HA: How do you explain the great artists like Rodin and Jackson Pollock? It's magic. You stand in front of a Jackson Pollock painting and if you try to analyze it you've missed it and it's gone. How do you create that thing that touches you? And, when I'm recording, I want to touch. When it happens, I stop. I don't try to analyze it, change it or clean it up—the stuff you can do nowadays.

AAJ: I know you are still touring. You're heading to Japan?

HA: Yes, we're playing at the Blue Note in Tokyo. I'm excited about that. Then we return for a release performance in Malibu at the Smothers theatre on September 25th.

AAJ: Hearing Come Fly with Me was a lot of fun. I think you have another winner here.

HA: Thanks, It was fun. I'm trying to make uplifting music -for myself and for the people listening to it.

AAJ: This has been wonderful, Herb. Thank you. Good Luck with the tour and with Come Fly with Me. It's terrific.

HA: Thanks, Nick. It's always a pleasure speaking with you. Stay well.
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