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Sergio Mendes

For most of the second half of the '60s, Sergio Mendes was the top-selling Brazilian artist in the United States, charting huge hit singles and LPs that regularly made the Top Five. His records with his group, Brasil '66, regularly straddled the domestic pop and international markets in America, getting played heavily on AM radio stations, both rock and easy listening, and he gave his label, A&M, something to offer light jazz listeners beyond the work of the company's co-founder, Herb Alpert. During this period, he also became an international music star and one of the most popular musicians in South America.

Born the son of a physician in Niteroi, Brazil, Mendes began studying music at the local conservatory while still a boy, with the intention of becoming a classical pianist. He was living in Rio de Janeiro as the bossa nova craze hit in the mid- to late '50s, and at age 15, he abandoned classical music in favor of bossa nova. Mendes began spending time with other young Brazilian musicians in Rio de Janeiro, absorbing the musical ferment around him in the company of such figures as Antonio Carlos Jobim and João Gilberto. Their company was augmented by the periodic visits of American jazz giants such as Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Byrd, Paul Winter, Roy Eldridge, and Herbie Mann. Mendes became the leader of his own group, the Sexteto Bossa Rio, and was heard with them by many visiting musicians. He made his first recording, Dance Moderno, in 1961 on the Philips Records label. By 1962, Mendes and his band were playing at Birdland in New York in an impromptu performance with Cannonball Adderley (who was officially on the bill). Mendes and Adderley cut an album together for Capitol Records that was released later that year.

His early music, represented on albums like Bossa Nova York and Girl from Ipanema, was heavily influenced by Antonio Carlos Jobim, on whose recording Mendes worked. Mendes liked what he had found on his visit to New York, and in 1964 he moved to the United States, initially to play on albums with Jobim and Art Farmer, and formed Brasil '65 the following year. The group recorded for Capitol without attracting too much notice at first. In 1966, however, Mendes and his band — renamed Brasil '66 — were signed to A&M Records and something seemed to click between the group and its audience.

The group, consisting in its first A&M incarnation of Mendes on keyboards, Bob Matthews on bass, João Palma on drums, Jose Soares as percussionist, Lani Hall (aka Mrs. Herb Alpert and A&M's co-founder) on vocals, and Janis Hansen on vocals, was successful upon the release of its first album for the label, with its mix of light jazz, a bossa nova beat, and contemporary soft pop melodies. Their self-titled debut LP rose to number six nationally, propelled by the presence of the single "Mas Que Nada." Their second album, Equinox, yielded a trio of minor hits, "Night and Day," "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)," and "For Me," but their third, Look Around, rose to number five behind a number three single of the group's cover of the Beatles' "Fool on the Hill" and an accompanying hit with "Scarborough Fair," based on the Simon & Garfunkel version of the folk song. Crystal Illusions, from 1969, featured a version of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" and the hit single "Pretty World." Depending upon one's sensibilities, these covers — especially "Fool on the Hill" and "Scarborough Fair" — were either legitimate, internationalized pop versions of the originals, or they were "elevator music."

During this period, Mendes also made several recordings for Atlantic Records separate from his A&M deal, principally aimed at a light jazz audience, and several of them in association with Jobim. Art Farmer, Phil Woods, Hubert Laws, and Claire Fisher were among the jazz figures who appeared on these records, which never remotely attracted the same level of interest or sales as his records with Brasil '66. Mendes successfully walked a fine line between international and domestic audiences for most of the late '60s until the end of the decade. Ye-Me-Le was notably less successful than its predecessors, and its single, "Wichita Lineman," was only a minor hit. Mendes seemed to lose his commercial edge with the turn of the decade, and his next two A&M albums: Stillness, a folk-based collection that contained covers of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth," and Primal Roots, an album of traditional Brazilian music, failed to make any impression on the charts whatsoever.

The group moved to the much smaller Bell Records label in 1973, and then Mendes jumped to Elektra for his first official solo album, Sergio Mendes. He relaunched his recording career two years later with Sergio Mendes & Brasil '77 to little avail, and then, after a five-year layoff from the public eye, Mendes returned to A&M in 1982. His 1983 comeback album, Sergio Mendes, was his first Top 40 album in nearly a decade and a half, and was accompanied by his biggest chart single ever, "Never Gonna Let You Go," which hit number four. Since then, Mendes has had limited chart success with the single "Alibis" and the LP Confetti. He remained a popular figure internationally, even when his record sales slumped in America, as evidenced by the fact that his entire A&M catalog (and much of his Atlantic work) from the '60s has been reissued on CD in Japan. Indeed, his popularity in the rest of the world, versus America, was even the basis for a comic vignette in one episode of the television series Seinfeld.

During the '90s, Mendes performed with a new group, Brasil '99, and more recently, Brasil 2000, and has been integrating the sounds of Bahian hip-hop into his music. In 1997, A&M's British division released a remastered double-CD set of the best of Mendes' music from his first seven years on the label. Most of Mendes' back catalog was reissued as the 21st century dawned, and in 2006, Concord Records released Timeless, his first album of newly recorded material in eight years. A mere two years later, Encanto appeared, including co-productions from will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas. A third album on Concord, Bom Tempo, was released in 2010. After appearances at numerous festivals and a global tour, Mendes took a short break before beginning to record again. He signed to Sony's revived OKeh imprint and cut a completely new set of songs in Los Angeles, Salvador, and Bahia, with a host of special guests and old friends, including John Legend, will.i.am., and Brazilian artists such as Carlinhos Brown, with whom he cut the first single, "One Nation," issued on One Love, One Rhythm: The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album. Mendes' album Magic was released in September.


The child of a physician in Niterói, Brazil, Mendes attended the local conservatory with hopes of becoming a classical pianist. As his interest in jazz grew, he started playing in nightclubs in the late 1950s just as bossa nova, a jazz-inflected derivative of samba, was emerging. Mendes played with Antonio Carlos Jobim (regarded as a mentor) and many U.S. jazz musicians who toured Brazil.

Mendes formed the Sexteto Bossa Rio and recorded Dance Moderno in 1961. Touring Europe and the United States, Mendes recorded albums with Cannonball Adderley and Herbie Mann and played Carnegie Hall. Mendes moved to the U.S. in 1964 and cut two albums under the Sergio Mendes & Brasil '65 group name with Capitol Records and Atlantic Records.

Sergio became full partners with Richard Adler, a Brooklyn-born American who had previously brought Bossa Trés plus two dancers, Joe Bennett and a Brazilian partner, to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1963. He was also accompanied by Antonio Carlos Jobim; Flavio Ramos, and Aloisio Olivera, a record and TV producer from Rio. The Musicians Union only allowed this group to appear on one TV show and one club appearance (Basin Street East) before ordering them to leave the U.S. When the new group, Brasil '65 was formed, Shelly Manne, Bud Shank and other West Coast musicians got Sergio and the others into the local musicians union. Adler and Mendes formed Brasil '65, which consisted of Wanda Sá and Rosinha de Valença, as well as the Sergio Mendes Trio. The group recorded albums for Atlantic and Capitol.


Sérgio Santos Mendes, , (born February 11, 1941 in Niterói, Brazil) is a Grammy Award-winning Brazilian musician. He has released over thirty-five albums, and plays bossa nova heavily crossed with jazz and funk.
Mendes is married to Gracinha Leporace who regularly performs vocals for her husband and can also be heard on his 2006 version of the song Mas Que Nada with Black Eyed Peas
Timeless features a wide array of neo-soul and alternative hip hop guest artists, most prominently will.i.am and The Black Eyed Peas. It was released February 14, 2006 by Concord Records.
It features The Black Eyed Peas, Erykah Badu, Black Thought, Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, India.Arie, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Q-Tip, Stevie Wonder and Pharoahe Monch.

 

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