It's 9 a.m., Pacific Time when Herb Alpert gave us a jingle-jangle a few weeks ago. He'd been up for hours recording "Whatever pops into my head," the 80-year-old jazz and pop trumpeter says.
"The night before, I woke up and I'm hearing 'Blue Skies,' the song Irving Berlin wrote, and all of a sudden I have a new way of doing it that might be interesting. So I'm exploring that at the moment." But Alpert doesn't sleep with his horn to capture any late night inspiration.
"No, I don't," he says. "If I hear a song or am inspired by a song and can't remember it in the morning, it probably wasn't worth anything."
Alpert's new album, "In the Mood," features inspired, swirling sonics that obviously lasted the night. It's Alpert's trumpet with its creamy tone over a bed of electronic pitter-patter and dreamy wash. It's like the soundtrack to a constellation in motion: trippy and elegant.
"Well, I just find songs that I like to play," Alpert says. "And this collection of songs kind of came up in my memory bank, and then I tried to find ways to play them in a way that haven't quite been done before. Like 'Chattanooga Choo Choo' — it was Glenn Miller's first Gold record, recorded in 1941. So this song was in my head and my nephew Randy [Badazz Alpert] came up with this rhythm."
Alpert particularly likes this cut.
"I think it combines three interesting elements: electronic music with my style of jazz, and some sophisticated strings. I've done lots of other cuts with Randy. He wrote the song 'Rise' for me in 1979. So I'm familiar with that type of groove."
It's a groove that's an infectious marriage of old and new.
"That's what I do," Alpert says. "I'm not trying to get hit records. I wouldn't mind having a hit record, but I'm not trying to play the beat of the week."
But the legendary horn player has been the beat of many weeks. He has had five number one albums, nine Grammy Awards, 14 platinum albums and 15 gold albums. He has sold more than 72 million records worldwide. He was the "A" in A&M Records, and he started The Herb Alpert Foundation to further music education in schools.
"I don't think a kid has a full education unless they rub elbows with some type of creativity," he says. "It doesn't have to be playing a musical instrument, it could be writing poetry, dancing, whatever it is."
Oh, and the man paints and sculpts. No wonder he'd been up for hours when we talked.
"Well you know, I'm a right brain guy. I spend 85 percent of my time in the right side of my brain. I've been painting for over 45 years and sculpting for 30 some odd years. I just like the feeling, the feeling of expressing myself. It's the way to keep harmony. This is one of the reasons for The Herb Alpert Foundation. I'm intent on making sure we get creative programs in the public and private schools."
So you can thank Alpert for hits like "A Taste of Honey" (1965), "Spanish Flea" (1966), "This Guy's in Love with You" (1968), and the creation of the roadie. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were one of the first touring groups to travel with its own sound, consequently, roadies.
Alpert simplifies what he does in one word.
"Honesty," he says. "That's the only element that makes art work for anyone, whatever you do. Unless you're passionate and honest about what you're doing, forget about it; don't do it. I'm passionate about this. I love to play. I just love it. It's what I enjoy doing in my life."
Herb Alpert will perform with Lani Hall on Saturday, June 20, 8 p.m., at Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs Street. Tickets are $43 to $63. herbalpertpresents.com