Sergio Mendes

Artist / Band / Musician
Latin / Pop / Hip Hop
Concord Music Group
“Every time I make a new album,” states the legendary Brazilian maestro

Sergio Mendes, “it’s a new musical adventure.” Over the course of a career that

has amassed an astounding track record of 35-plus albums made and millions sold,

Mendes has embarked on many adventures, highlighted by his early ‘60s Bossa Rio

Sextet outings in Brazil, his worldwide breakthrough Brasil’66 group (and its

many iterations), his 1992 Grammy-winning milestone Brasileiro and his brilliant

2006 outing on Concord Records, Timeless, a Brazilian music-meets-hip hop

collaboration with Black Eyed Peas’

For his follow-up to 2008’s Encanto, another “enchanted celebration” of the

Brazilian songbook, Mendes returns with his refreshing and invigorating new

Concord Records collection, Bom Tempo. The melodies are indelible, the explosive

percussion is exciting, the harmony-laced singing exhilarates, and the

arrangements exude both celebration and romance. “This is bom tempo music, good

times music,” says the Brazilian-born, U.S.-based producer- composer

pianist-keyboardist-arranger- who sought to sum up the CD with a succinct

Portuguese title. “It’s all about the good times, good weather, good tempos. The

album is about the diversity, joy and sensuality of Brazilian music—songs I

previously recorded and some that I never have—played by Brazilian and American


While Bom Tempo showcases tunes from the crème de la crème of Brazilian

songwriters (including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Joao Donato,

Carlinhos Brown, Jorge Benjor, Milton Nascimento and Moacir Santos) and a song

from his old friend Stevie Wonder, written especially for Mendes in 1977, the

simmering “The Real Thing” (first recorded on Sergio Mendes and the New Brasil


“I think it’s wonderful to see how young people all around the world

appreciate Brazilian music” he says. “I wanted to create a collection of songs

that are mostly up-tempo, fresh and danceable, so that young people can relate

to. I wanted to reintroduce great Brazilian melodies in a different way and

communicate with a new audience.” Case in point: the Benjor Brazilian hit song,

“Pais Tropical,” with a rap interlude.

While many of Mendes’ friends and long time collaborators are present on the

album (including drummers Mike Shapiro and Vinnie Colaiuta, bassists Nathan

Watts and Alphonso Johnson, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Kleber Jorge,

percussionist Gibi, vocalist Gracinha Leporace —the bandleader’s wife—and

songwriter-arranger-vocalist Carlinhos Brown, who was integral to the success of

the Brasileiro album), newcomers are also in the mix.

Most prominent is Milton Nascimento, who contributes his own “Caxanga,” a

moody, mysterious children’s song that he had only recorded once. He sings the

lead vocal in his singular style and plays the acoustic guitar. “This is very

special,” says Mendes. “Even though we are more or less contemporaries, this is

the first time we’ve worked together. Milton is one of my favorite Brazilian

singer/composers, no doubt about it. Coincidentally, I went to a show Milton

performed in Los Angeles, and we went out to dinner afterwards. I told him about

the new record and how I’d love to have him be a part of it. The next day, he

called me up and said, ‘Sergio, I have a surprise for you.’ He brought this song

in and it worked out perfectly.”

Seu Jorge is one of the most promising, hot, new Brazilian singers (American

audiences may be familiar with his acting debut in the Bill Murray film “The

Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”). “It has always been my pleasure to introduce

new Brazilian talent in my albums, and we do have so many gifted artists in

Brazil. Seu Jorge’s participation brings the kind of freshness which has always

been associated with my projects.”

There are important new faces in Mendes’ Bom Tempo. One of them is horn

player Scott Mayo, who not only plays saxophones and woodwinds instruments, but

also arranged the horn section for the tracks. “He brought tremendous energy to

the project. He also invited some of his friends, including trombonist Andrew

Lippman, and trumpeter Bill Churchville - they add so much color to the songs.”

Mendes also had the pleasure of working with very talented guitarist Jack

Majdecki. “He has been doing lead sheets for me for a long time, but this is the

first time he has actually played with me – what a joy to work with him.”

In addition, Mendes introduces to the party young and talented singers Katie

Hampton (who has been in Mendes’ band for the last 2 years) and Nayanna Holley,

new band addition H2O, a rapper from Oakland, CA and Brazilian musician Mika

Mutti, a great, original Brazilian Rhythm Designer, also from Bahia.

Bom Tempo opens with a spirited, chant-like take on the Gil/Donato

song “Emorio”, featuring Holley and Brown on lead vocals. The latter contributes

a funky rap that pays tribute to Brazil’s songwriters. In the Afro-Brazilian mix

are allusions to such Mendes’ hits as “Mas Que Nada” and “The Frog.”

The second track, another dance-oriented jewel, “Maracatu Atomico,” was a

first-time rendering, complete with a great horn section and percussive beat,

based on the Afro-Brazilian maracatu rhythm.

Another song on the CD with the rhythm, “Maracatu (Nation of Love)” is a

samba-infused beauty featuring a gorgeous Jorge/Leporace conversation-like duet

and luminous horns. At the close of the song, in the fade, there is a duet by

bassist Alphonso Johnson and Mendes, with scats by Seu Jorge, which Mendes

jokingly calls “30-seconds of ear candy at the end.” This maracatu song was

composed by Moacir Santos, who also penned the romantic tune on the CD, “Orpheus

(Quiet Carnival),” that Mendes and Leporace sing.

Moacir, says Mendes, was one of his mentors. “He lived in Rio and worked at

the National Radio, “stated Mendes. “He always had a special way of writing and

orchestrating. He had his own style. I took music lessons from him when I was

17, and he wrote some of the arrangements on my first Bossa Rio Sextet album,

along with Antonio Carlos Jobim. He was one of the most prolific

composer/arrangers of Brazilian music. Mendes considers Moacir “the Duke

Ellington of Brazilian music.”

On Bom Tempo, there are new interpretations of some Brazilian classics,

including a fresh spin on “Ye-Me-Le”, with a cool rap performed by new band

member H2O and a remake of “Magalenha” (from Brasileiro) that features great

steel guitar, rap and body percussion contributions from Brown. Says Mendes:

“Carlinhos was in Los Angeles for two weeks, so we decided to work on a new,

special version of the song he wrote. I said, let’s do a 2010 version that not

only exhibits great Brazilian music but also pays tribute to the World Cup games

this year. Because those soccer games will be played in Cape Town, South Africa,

I had the idea of using some Zulu words as part of the song.”

New additions to the Mendes recording songbook on Bom Tempo include a

brand-new Brown composition, the grooved, romantic “You and I,” sung in English

by the songwriter and Holley; and two Jobim gems featuring Leporace: the

soothing “Caminhos Cruzados,” with a cool and minimalist quartet (Mendes,

Johnson, Shapiro and Majdecki) playing in an intimate setting, and “Só Tinha De

Ser Com Voce,” a swinging uptempo piece. “Jobim was another mentor and a dear

friend to me,” says Mendes. “On “So Tinha…” Scott arranged the horns to have an

infectious, Carnaval-like feel.

Proud of his Brazilian heritage and aware of the magic and seduction of his

homeland’s music, which keeps attracting young audiences through the years, all

over the world, Mendes notes “It started with Jobim, being played by Stan Getz

and Charlie Byrd with Astrud and Joao Gilberto; then it was myself with

Cannonball Adderley; Ron Carter, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald recording with

Jobim, and later David Byrne putting those compilation albums of a variety of

Brazilian musicians playing all kinds of styles. He adds, “More recently (with

Timeless and Encanto) the attraction continues, with , John Legend,

India.Arie, Fergie, and so many more, who love the music so much and were

instrumental in helping to expose it to people in their audience. Even for Bom

Tempo, when I met the 20-year-old DJ guys Bimbo Jones in London, they were

totally into watching YouTube videos of Brasil ’66. It just goes to show you

that Brazilian music has a universal appeal and it IS timeless… ” And so is

Sergio Mendes.
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