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Sweet Charity: Herb Alpert Award in the Arts Celebrates 25th Anniversary

As the honor that bears his name turns 25, the musician and philanthropist keeps on giving

Herb Alpert
Herb Alpert (photo by: Dewey Nicks)

It was in the 1980s that trumpeter Herb Alpert—creator of a ’60s pop phenomenon, the Tijuana Brass, and cofounder of A&M Records—began to ponder what to do with “some extra money” he’d accumulated. “I didn’t want to buy a Monet or a Van Gogh and hang it on my wall,” he says. “I thought I could better use it by trying to help others.”

The Herb Alpert Foundation was incorporated in 1988. To date, it has given $175 million to the arts. Last year it bestowed 99 grants, all in the name of Alpert and his wife of over 40 years, singer Lani Hall. The gifts include funding for jazz education, jazz radio, and jazz musicians in need. Nobody applies; all beneficiaries are sought out by Alpert and his staff of three. May 2019 brought the 25th anniversary of another of his charitable endeavors: the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, five $75,000 grants given annually to mid-career artists in a range of genres. Numerous jazz musicians—including pianist Vijay Iyer, bandleader Butch Morris, composer/saxophonist Steve Coleman, reed player James Carter, and flutist Nicole Mitchell—have been picked by the award’s panel of three artists. This year’s musical winner was bassist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello.

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Originally Published

James Gavin

James Gavin is the author of Deep in a Dream: The Long Night of Chet Baker, Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne, and Intimate Nights: The Golden Age of Cabaret. He is a regular contributor to JazzTimes.