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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  October 24, 2013 12:00am-12:30am EDT

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tavis: good evening, tonight, a conversation with legendary musician herb albert and his accomplish mints are -- his a accomplishments include music from the great american songbook. we are glad you can join us for a conversation with herb alpert coming up right now.
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>> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: the debut album of her bellport dominated -- of herb alpert dominated the airwaves. sales2 million album later, he has a new one called "stepping out." let's see a video of his version
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of "putting on the ritz." different types who are coats with pinstripes ♪ ♪ putting on the ritz ♪ rockefellers with ♪ ♪ putting on the ritz ♪ tavis: your corpus is deep enough already. >> i am having a great time. it gives me energy to do this. i have been playing since i was eight. not stopping. tavis: still practicing everyday? >> everyday. if i don't play, something is
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off here in tavis: -- something is off. tavis: you have earned the right to go rest if you want to. but you can take my point. i read somewhere recently where laughable,at i found but i know what you meant by it, that you don't think you will ever master the horn. >> oh, no. i was friends with this elect city -- with dizzy gillespie. tavis: if you have not mastered it, you have tamed this thing, tamed this beast. >> i don't know if i have tamed it, but i am looking for my own voice. i strove to find my own voice. i am satisfied with the way i play. there is just a lot more to accomplish.
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tavis: maybe you don't know the answer because you haven't found it yet, but what do you think is still out there? how much better can you get? >> the more i get in touch with myself and the more i can relax, there is a books written by a famous flautist who said there is a formula for playing. equals small p. is the audience and the small p is how you play. if you can get to the place where you can totally relax and totally experience your gift, then you can really create. after all these years, is there a place where you feel like it doesn't get much that are than the moment i am in right now?
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>> i think i am seduced by the arts in general. arts is like the power of now. when you are performing, playing, scoping, just sculpting, painting, that is what you want to do your tavis: when did this induction begin? >> i started playing when i was eight. i was lucky enough to have an elementary school that had a music appreciation class. it had a room filled with instruments. it was a table filled with instruments. i picked up the trumpet. i was a kid who was not able to communicate my feelings. it to me a while to make some sense out of it. and once i did, the horn was speaking for me eerie -- for me. over the year, i have had a tremendous run.
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i feel like i need to return it. it is important for me to have a meaningful life. you have to be of service of others as well. tavis: you have done that -- you have done that. can, one of the things that i'm trying to promote is that, if you can afford to do it, let's support the arts. we have done very little as a country to encourage young artists. congrats on your middle of the arts from president obama >> that was an amazing moment. i think he really does get the value of the arts. he is so relaxed and so beautiful. my wife and i had a good full day and a half. -- my wife and i had a beautiful day and a half.
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we go into another room and i am taking a picture with president there's wifen comes in and we are taking a picture good she looks -- a picture. she looks at the president says do you think it is ok if we have a couple of these pictures? he looked at her and started laughing. why do you think we are taking these? [laughter] i love your lonnie. i will come back to the music a second good one of the things i love most about you is that you -- ibeen an all-around mean, you are a renaissance guy. i'm pushing close to that 50 mark. >> wel
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hoa. i have ties older than you. [laughter] tavis: i have been thinking about things that are -- i'm not trying to go anywhere soon -- but i'm thinking that, in the second half of my life, things that i want to get done and get accomplished. the truth of the matter is, for have 70 years. i have more years behind me then ahead of me. in i think about the things i have not done and that i want to accomplish. i look at people like you and people i so admire and you have done so many things. others have done so many things in done some mean things well, what advice do you have for me and others? did you plan it that way? how did you end up doing all of
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these different things well? >> i always said to myself, don't want 10 years from myself in thinking about this, going to say i should have when i had the chance. i'm just doing the things that come out of me. i am passionate about painting. i am passionate about sculpting. playing the horn, for sure. beingam passionate about of service to others if i can. i get tremendous, you know -- there is a word in english -- i get that thing. tavis: you also found a way to be a businessman and to not let this is this rake you. .hich is pretty significant go d even if artists find a way to get the artistic
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expression out, they don't have the business acumen. i was recording for a major record company prior to a and m and i did not like the way i was treated. very cold surroundings, very cold studio. when i did the song i was performing, they didn't use mine in best use my name. i thought it was a little strange. so i go into the control room and listening to the way back, -- to the playback him i'm thinking that they could use a little more. the engineer slapped my hand and said don't you ever do that again. this is a union house and don't ever touch that born-again. i said, man, a fire had my chance to have a record company, shouldn't it revolve around the artist?
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i was intimidated by it. i had the idea -- not a total idea of the tijuana itss -- but i wanted to get against the union. wreckinge unions were your artistic dreams. >> no, they did me a favor. we developed our recording facilities. it looks like a living room. some of the artists would go in there and they would be in front of the israeli wall and see crystal. if a studio doesn't feel good the minute you walk into it, you are not going to feel that loose. tavis: when you look back at the mnd him years -- at the a&
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years, give me a few uses of what you would refer to as musical genius that you guys helped ring to the for. what kind of artists are you most proud of? >> we were not looking for the beat of the week. we were looking for an artist who would sing their own special way. cat stevens would be the perfect example. we tried to give the freedom to the artist, let themselves find them -- find their way down the runway. it is a great focus group when you do concerts. we gave all this freedom. we had these fantastic groups. that think that the one stands out at the moment because they sold so many records was the carpenters. for the first euro show, they
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didn't sell wreckers. -- didn't sell records. i was getting from my own company, the guys to send the records, why is this guy doing this? tavis: in today's world, they would have been summarily dropped. why did you not drop the carpenters? heard something in her voice and something in richard's ability to put the right songs together. great talent. it was just a matter of time. there is another story and that is probably a longer one. tavis: we have time. >> this was a fortuitous thing that happened. when i was doing a television show in the 1960s, the director asked me to sing a song. i said, if i find the right song, i will try it.
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bacharach.dge you remember him -- then came burt bacharach. you remember him? tavis: oh, yeah. [laughter] "this girlt me is in love with you." there was a prior record by dionne warwick. i felt i could handle it. hal davis is in new york at the time. and i asked him if he could change the gender and adapted for the television show. i flew to new york and he made the changes to the lyric. as i was leaving his plays, i gave him the same questions that i asked bert. two days later, he sent me ."lose to you pok
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that was a song i was going to do as a follow-up. did listening to the playback in the control was the friend larry engineer. and he said, man, you sound terrible singing the song. [laughter] so i tucked did away in my drawer. carpenters had been a year without doing anything and i gave them the song "post to you." they recorded it -- "close to you." they recorded it. karen did not think of herself as a great singer. she saw herself as a great drummer. i thought it was a little light so list do it again. , they had thery
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heavy artillery and that song opened the doors. tavis: a blockbuster smash hit. >> yeah. tavis: the lyrics are beautiful. womanis more suited for a than a man. i have this list of the list withn ,he best diction, pronunciation carpenter,, karen necking cold, there are some artists, -- nat king cole, there are some artists that do it. >> beautiful. she was special. she had no idea how great she was, unfortunately. it is hard to talk out it
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because she was a lovely girl. tavis: i think i am right about this. coz, did you notcaus perform together recently? he did "this guy is in love" and he's saying it and he wanted to do a different angle on it as you probably know. i played the trumpet in the middle and it was nice. he is a lovely guy. i thought that he covered her belter. tell me -- covered her outward to tell me about "sipping out." songs thato takes are familiar to people and try good here in on it a way that it has not been heard before.
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i used to play parties and weddings and i had a couple thousand songs in my head. every now and then come i found myself whistling a song and thought why am i was doing that song? there must be a reason that that melody sticks. so i try to find a way to arrange it and make sense. tavis: and you have done that. out whatou figure would make these 16 tracks? going.st kept actually, i had more than 16. we whittled it down. . am a right brained guy if it doesn't feel good, i continue.
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that was the criteria for that. is a version of "the lovely book" and it was the 50th anniversary and i did a retake with an orchestra so it is completely different from the original record that was recorded in 1962. and we gave that away as a thank you to the folks who supported us throughout the years. tavis: what makes a good song? because you can come back and make it sound different. what makes a good song for you? >> it's all about the melody. it has to be a good melody. great melody and really good lyrics, it's melody .or me first thir
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tavis: that is something that we seem to be lacking today. >> a man. i think so. butght be off on this one, it is not bebop or reckless jazz. there is a listens to what i am doing. not the continual be that flows over everything. musicians,ese fusion there are some made tracks to deal with that it does not have the heart. recording, itf has to have that spontaneity. lonnie and i have the script we have been playing with in the last seven years ended it is very spontaneous. everything we do is -- seven years and it is very
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spontaneous. everything we do is right at the moment. that is what makes it fun to do night after night. tavis: that kind of innovation, creativity, free spirit allows for what? [laughter] >> i used to play golf when i was traveling with the tijuana brass. od onay, i hit a three-wou the fairway. it was perfect. it went 200 yards and went exactly where it was supposed to go. that was the last time i ever did that. [laughter] when you are blowing the horn, you know, sometimes, everything works and it is a chairman is feeling care. i think jazz is a phenomenal because it is one
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man, one vote as you are playing. but it is a collective thing with all of the musicians around you and you are working within that structure. think wee knew -- i need more of that as human beings. we need to be able to appreciate each others'differences and jazz really takes us in that direction. tavis: lonnie still sounds good. lonnie is a world cost singer. we have had people comeback stage sobbing. she is the most honest singer i know outside of maybe only holiday. [laughter] tavis: that is hi con, as they say. -- that is hi cotton, as they say. [laughter] the chance to lay together and travel together. lex in december, we are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary good we met in 1966
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when she was the lead singer of brazil 66 and she called me herb alpert for the first couple of years. she still does. [laughter] that is a great story. you guys are so cool. the verbwalked in, bravado, the the jazz club, it's amazing. what's i wanted to have a space in l.a. where all the great musicians can play, feel good, feel comfortable, and we created a studio with [indiscernible] he was with me every step of the way developing the inside here and the sound is beautiful. upstairs, downstairs,
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left and right, it is just stage. it is a great place for musicians. it took me a long time to discover it. but when i did, alan bergman invited me. >> something really spectacular happens. brubeckk -- dave performed there. old.as about 80 years ag sat down at the pn oh, he played like a kid. -- at the piano, he played like a kid. then he got back end went back .o the green room it was enlightening for me. the power of music. the power of art and it made him feel like a kid again and it was beautiful to watch. the very first time i saw
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alan bergman sing his own stuff, it is a rare thing. >> yap. -- yeah. whethern the meantime, you are in l.a. or not, you can pick this up and it is herb alpert's latest called "stepping out" featuring the delightful lonnie hall. you are still sounding good, man. >> thank you. tavis: good to have you on. that is our show for tonight. as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: john me next time for a conversation with one of the --ld's most acclaimed a cuss
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acclaimed conductors and composers. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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