One of the most internationally successful Brazilian artists of all time, Sergio 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.
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.
Mendes left Capitol to sign with trumpeter Herb Alpert and partner Jerry Moss's new label A&M in 1966, where the newly renamed Brazil '66 made its debut, featuring Bob Matthews on bass; Jose Soares on percussion; Joao Palma on percussion; and Lani Hall and Janis Hansen on vocals. The A&M album featured the hit single "Mais que nada." Sung in Portugese, it went gold the following year.
The group dented the top 40 with three singles from the follow-up gold album Equinox—"Night and Day," "Constant Rain (Chove chuva)," and "For Me." The next release, Fool on the Hill, which also went gold, featured a new lineup that featured vocalist Karen Phillips as a replacement for Hansen, and a rhythm section that consisted of Sebastio Neto, Dom Um Romao, Rubens Bassini, and Oscar Castro Neves. The single "Scarborough Fair" heightened their popularity still further.
Mendes cemented the group's renown with frequent television appearances and a concert tour with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass and the Baja Marimba Band. He also added to his pop successes with more traditional jazz releases on the Atlantic Records label that featured such jazz musicians as Claire Fisher, Hubert Laws, Phil Woods, Art Farmer, and Jobim. In 1969, Brazil '66 released Crystal Illusions, which included cover versions of the Otis Redding and Steve Cropper composition "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" and the single "Pretty World." The group's other 1969 release, Ye-Me-Le, included a cover of the Jimmy Webb song that became a major hit for Glen Campbell, "Wichita Lineman." They released Stillness (1971), which included cover versions of Joni Mitchell's "Chelsea Morning" and Stephen Still's Buffalo Springfield hit "For What It's Worth," and Primal Roots (1972), an album of Brazilian music. These two albums saw the end of the band's most commercially successful period. Singer Lani Hall, who had been married for a time to Herb Alpert, defected from the band after the release of Stillness to pursue a solo career as a jazz vocalist.
Music video by Sergio Mendes, will.i.am, Siedah Garrett performing Funky Bahia. (C) 2008 Concord Music Group, Inc.