‘Herb Alpert Is…’ Bigger than The Beatles?
In a third-grade music class, the introverted Herb Alpert found his voice when he discovered the trumpet. More than a decade later, on a Tijuana vacation, he discovered his sound. “The Lonely Bull” (1962) launched Alpert’s platinum career at the head of his own band, The Tijuana Brass, which supported his ascent in the music industry as the “A” in A&M Records.
The documentary Herb Alpert Is… weaves the creativity of his present life into a chronicle of his impressive past. In recent years Alpert has devoted more time to painting and sculpture than recording music; the film shows him at work with clay and canvas in his sprawling home and follows him on memory lane, walking past his Melrose Avenue grade school, into the LA Spanish colonial house of his childhood and inside the A&M compound, the historic site of Charlie Chaplin’s studio. Contemporary interviews are adeptly interspersed with archival footage and photos.
The latest effort by Milwaukee native John Scheinfeld, whose previous films include documentaries on John Lennon and John Coltrane, Herb Alpert Is… serves as a reminder of how pervasive its subject was in the ‘60s and how important he was in the ‘70s. Alpert and The Tijuana Brass were welcome in places where The Beatles were seldom heard—their music was used on TV commercials and shows and they regularly enjoyed guest shots on variety shows and their own television specials. Alpert and band starred in what we recognize today as music videos, performing their hits in dramatic outdoor settings or tooling around in old-time cars.
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