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Sergio Mendes

Herb Alpert Presents

A Brief Sergio Mendes Biography
(from
The Brazilian Sound)

Sergio Mendes was born in Niterói, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, in 1941. He was a fixture at a very young age in the nightclubs in Copacabana's Beco das Garrafas, where he added his jazz-influenced piano to the ongoing sessions. Early on he recorded albums such as Dance Moderno (1961) and Sérgio Mendes & Bossa Rio: Você Ainda Não Ouviu Nada in Brazil and was a participant on jazz-bossa albums with Cannonball Adderley (Cannonball's Bossa Nova), Herbie Mann and Paul Winter. In the United States, he hit his commercial stride with the A&M album Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, on which he discarded jazz and went wholly pop.

His new sound mixed bossa nova, American pop, and MPB in a light, upbeat blend, usually with two female vocalists singing in unison, while a drummer -- João Palma and Dom Um Romão were two -- layed down a trademark crisp, catchy beat. The album included renditions of Jorge Ben's "Mas Que Nada," Jobim's "Água De Beber," and Baden Powell's "Berimbau," as well as Beatles and Henry Mancini songs. The Mendes formula was a huge success. The LP hit number 7 on the pop charts and went gold, as did Sergio's next three records (Equinox, Look Around, and Fool on the Hill). Mendes's band scored two top 10 singles at that time, as well as a lesser hit with "Mas Que Nada," sung in Portuguese. He was the Brazilian recording artist who reaped the most commerical success from the North American bossa boom in the 1960s.

Sergio is a bandleader who has been able to surround himself with top-flight musical talent and translate Brazilian sounds for international ears. His albums have often been the introduction to foreigners of material by Jobim, Jorge Ben (now known as Jorge Ben Jor), Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Guinga, and other leading Brazilian songwriters. Mendes stepped out of his usual mold with Primal Roots (1977), which included folkloric styles in the mix, and the Grammy-winning Brasileiro (1992), which showcased rising Bahian songwriter Carlinhos Brown and fused MPB and Rio samba with axé music and funk. On  the hip-hop-flavored Timeless (2006), he collaborated with Will.i.am (William James Adams Jr.) of the American group the Black Eyed Peas.

Sergio Mendes and his bands -- in their various incarnations -- have done much to spread Brazilian music around the world, and his light, smooth renditions of bossa and MPB standards have gained a new popularity in recent years with the global resurgence of bossa nova.

Excerpted from The Brazilian Sound: Samba, Bossa Nova And The Popular Music Of Brazil © Chris McGowan & Ricardo Pessanha, 1991 / 1998 / 2009. All Rights Reserved.