Sergio Mendes was born on February 11, 1941, and raised in Niteroi, Brazil, the son of a physician. He studied music at a conservatory and harbored hopes of becoming a classical pianist. In the late 1950s, Mendes relocated to Rio de Janeiro, where he developed a passion for bossa nova music. He also immersed himself in American jazz until, as he explained to writer John Lannert on the William Morris Agency Web site, "around 15 or so, when I was given a Dave Brubeck record and that changed my life. From then on, I started listening to Charlie Parker and Bud Powell and all those great jazz pianists. So that was my main influence during my adolescent years."
He formed the Hot Trio in 1960, a group that played at the Rio establishment known as Bottles Bar. "Brazilian music was harmonically sophisticated, so the jazz element was contained in the improvisation," Mendes explained to Lannert. "But we continued to listen to Parker, Miles Davis—just to learn the new language and incorporate it into Brazilian music." He associated with bossa nova pioneers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Joao Gilberto, and met American musicians Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, and Herbie Mann. In 1962 the Hot Trio evolved into the Sexteto Bossa Rio, with which he recorded Dance Moderno. The band—consisting of two trombones, tenor saxophone, bass, drums, and piano—toured Europe and America, and played Birdland in New York City. There, Mendes sat in with headliner Julian "Cannonball" Adderley. The duo recorded an album together for Capitol Records in 1962. Mendes later recorded two albums of a samba/jazz hybrid for Atlantic Records. The first, Swinger from Rio, included Jobim, Hubert Laws, Art Farmer, and Phil Woods.
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 the 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."
Producer, composer, keyboardist and vocalist, Sergio Mendes’ influence on the music industry has spanned five decades and continues to evolve through new collaborations and mediums.
One of the most internationally successful Brazilian artists of all time, Mendes has recorded more than 35 albums, many of which went gold or platinum, and he’s a three-time Grammy® Award winner.
Last year (2012), Mendes received his first Oscar® nomination in the music category for “Real In Rio” from the animated, 3-D feature film “Rio.” In addition to being the executive music producer for the blockbuster film, he also contributed five songs to the movie. The soundtrack, Rio: Music from the Motion Picture, featured re-recorded versions of his hits “Mas Que Nada” and “Valsa Carioca.” Mendes, once again, was responsible for bringing the distinctive rhythms of Brazil to a global audience.
Sergio Mendes will again provide the music for the upcoming animated feature sequel Rio 2. The movie will also feature new Brazilian artists. The film is directed by Carlos Saldanha who directed the original 2011 film. Rio 2 is set to be released in the U.S. on April 11, 2014 by 20th Century Fox