Legendary trumpeter Herb Alpert has been part of John Scheinfeld’s life for a long time. “My mom had all of the Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass albums and would play them and dance around the house,” he recalls. “I have a very strong memory of that when I was 8 or 9. It was happy music.”
Now, a few decades later, the Emmy Award-winning director behind documentaries like The U.S. vs. John Lennon and Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary is bringing that sense of joy to the screen with Herb Alpert Is…, out Oct. 2 on video-on-demand.
As the doc reveals, Alpert is multilayered. The leader of the mariachi-influenced Tijuana Brass band has sold over 72 million records; as co-founder of independent label A&M Records, he worked with The Police, Janet Jackson, Cat Stevens and The Carpenters, among others; as a philanthropist, he has bestowed millions of dollars on music education at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Harlem School for the Arts; and his paintings and sculptures have been displayed around the world.
“It’s clear he is many different things to many different people,” says Scheinfeld, who met Alpert when he interviewed him two years ago for a forthcoming Sergio Mendes doc. Shortly after, Alpert, 85, who had declined previous entreaties to document his life, invited Scheinfeld to the Malibu, Calif., home where he resides with his wife of 46 years, Lani Hall. Scheinfeld laid out his vision for the film, to which Alpert replied on the spot: “We’re ready.”
In addition to footage from The Tijuana Brass’ heyday in the mid-1960s, Alpert sat for seven days of interviews. “What surprised me was how grounded he is,: Scheinfeld says. “The last day, he went around and shook hands and hugged every member of the crew. That’s who he is.” The film — featuring comments from Sting, Questlove, Quincy Jones and others — will be distributed by Abramorama, which is working with theater chains to hold virtual screenings. The same day that the doc arrives, a companion box set with 63 Alpert songs will become available in two different configurations (one including 180-gram vinyl).
Though completed before the coronavirus lockdown, the film is a panacea to the pandemic and fractured political landscape, according to Scheinfeld. “This is uplifting, inspiring, fun and nostalgic,” he says. “Here’s a guy who lived his life the right way. He didn’t throw televisions out the window or have drug problems, and then when you consider the philanthropy, [he] deserves to be celebrated.”