EDITORIAL: The Many (Musical) Sides of Sergio
by B.J. Major, Webmaster
It always amuses me when I hear people disparage about
whatever the current album is that Sergio Mendes has just
released. For some reason I just cannot fathom, many of his fans
want to pigeonhole him into just that one category - that of group
leader, arranger and keyboardist of Brasil ‘66.
Make no mistake, I LOVE the sound of Brasil ‘66, I truly do. I
listen to their recordings over and over. As far as I am
concerned, they are the gold standard of that type of sound. But
I also listen to everything else that Sergio has recorded just as
much. To be totally fair, I don’t know of and can’t even think of
one living musician who is recording the exact same type and style of
music that they were involved with in 1966. So why do we expect
this of Sergio? Times have changed and people move on.
Music is constantly changing, constantly evolving to incorporate new
sounds, new technology, new styles. As much as I love the “old
stuff”, I would not expect any performer to limit themselves in this
Many of Sergio’s Brasil ‘66 fans have no idea at all that he has
tremendous piano-jazz playing chops. Just listen to his early Dance Moderno
album if you doubt this. Or his recordings with jazz saxophonist
Bud Shank or the great album with his original instrumental group, The
Bossa Rio Sextet. Listen to the quiet, intimate sound of The
Sergio Mendes Trio with Brasil '65 playing Live at El Matador. Next to bossa nova itself, jazz is my favorite type of music and Sergio has mastered it.
Then there are the disco-beat albums he made during and after The New
Brasil ‘77, into the 1980s. I was never really into the disco
sound, but I love the vitality and the energy of Sergio’s “Yes I Love
You” from his Magic Lady album. And how can someone not be inspired and motivated to excel when listening to Sergio’s “Olympia” theme from Confetti, also from the 1980s?! Did anyone even notice the Jobim ending on “Kisses” from that same album?
Sergio’s vocals have not always said it with words. “Pipoca” is
an excellent example of a song with wonderful wordless vocals from
Sergio’s Brasileiro album of the 1990s. And speaking of Brasileiro,
you will never hear an album so full of Brazilian ethnicity as that
one. Just listen to how Sergio captured the essence of the samba
schools with the Brazilian drums and percussion during carnival!
This album was the perfect answer to those in Brazil who said that
Sergio was not capable of recording an album of true Brazilian music
and had instead done nothing but “sell out” with American pop tunes.
Which brings me to the subject of the album Timeless from
2006. Many people don’t like this Sergio album; in fact, some
hate it. I like it. I like it even more than I thought I
would, given how much I dislike rap and hip-hop. I don’t
particularly like every single track on the album (especially the
rendition of Jobim’s "Surfboard"), but I like at least some of the
remakes (“Mas Que Nada” in particular) and also how a track from one of
Sergio’s older instrumental albums on the Atlantic label serves as both
the background and jumping off point for a track in this Timeless.
A nice blend of the old and the new (though I admit it is not for
everyone’s taste). I am an instrumentalist by nature and really
don’t pay too much attention to lyrics, but I love the message of the
album’s title track, which stresses what is really important in life
and not to place all the emphasis on material things which will go out
of style and wear out. And I like the inclusion of the
João Donato-composed tracks and the instrumental work on the
album as well - it is first rate.
There are many musical sides to Sergio. You’re missing out if you haven’t listened to them all!