About Sergio Mendes
Born: February 11, 1941 (Niteroi,
Guide has this to say about
A pianist, composer and bandleader inextricably linked to the bossa nova craze of the 1960s, Sergio Mendes was born on February 11, 1941 in Niteroi, Brazil. After rising to prominence as the leader of the Bossa Nova Trio, he settled in the United States in 1964 and worked on recordings by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Art Farmer. A year later Mendes formed Brasil '65, the first incarnation of the group rechristened several months later as the more famous Brasil '66.
In addition to Mendes, Brasil '66 -- once marketed as "a delicately mixed blend of pianistic jazz, subtle Latin nuances, John Lennon/Paul McCartney style, some Henry Mancini, here and there a touch of Burt Bacharach, cool minor chords, danceable upbeat, gentle laughter and a little sex" -- comprised vocalist/percussionist Jose Soares, bassist/vocalist Bob Matthews, drummer Jao Palma and singer Janis Hansen. Most importantly, the group also featured vocalist Lani Hall, the wife of musician and A&M Records cofounder Herb Alpert, who released their debut Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 and watched it rise into the Top Ten on the strength of the hit "Mas Que Nada."
Equinox followed the next year, spawning the minor hits "Night and Day," "Constant Rain (Chove Chuva)" and "For Me." 1968's Look Around rocketed Brasil '66 to the Top Five, while Fool on the Hill reached the Top Three, launching the hit title track (a Beatles cover) as well as a smash rendition of Simon and Garfunkel's "Scarborough Fair." A cover of Otis Redding's "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" highlighted 1969's Crystal Illusions, which also notched the minor hit "Pretty World."
Apart from a rendition of "Wichita Lineman" which garnered some airplay, 1969's Ye-Me-Le fared poorly, barely cracking the Top 75; after 1971's Stillness met with virtually no commercial response, Mendes changed the group's name to the more forward-thinking Brasil '77, but to little avail -- after the chart failure of 1972's Primal Roots, the band's long association with A&M ended, and they moved to the Bell label for 1973's Love Music. By 1975's Sergio Mendes -- his first solo effort -- he had moved to Elektra; after re-launching the backing unit with 1977's Sergio Mendes and the New Brasil '77, Mendes dropped from sight for several years, re-signing to A&M in the early 1980s.
Also titled simply Sergio Mendes, his 1983 A&M comeback was his first Top 40 smash in close to 15 years; the single "Never Gonna Let You Go," which featured vocalists Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller, was his biggest hit to date, reaching the number four position on the U.S. charts, and the track "Rainbow's End" also received considerable airplay. Despite the Top 40 success of the single "Alibis," the 1984 follow-up Confetti did not fare as well as its predecessor, and Mendes again disappeared. At the dawn of the 1990s, he formed the new Brasil '99; as the decade progressed, he began exploring Bahian hip-hop. -- Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
In Ruy Castro's book, he says regarding Sergio
Mendes, "In the
mid-fifties, while still in short pants, he caught the ferry in
Niteroi to go to the Lojas Murray (Murray record store) and hear his
idols' records for free: Stan Kenton, who was still the
craze, and a young pianist named Horace Silver. [. . .] In
order to make some pocket money he formed a trio with his friend
Tião Neto, also from Niteroi, who played the double bass, and
a rotating cycle of percussionists. The three played at all sorts of
dances--only they played jazz, which nobody could dance to.
When they were asked to play waltzes at graduation dances, the
only one they knew was "Lover", by Rodgers and Hart. After all of
this, Sergio Mendes, who was already an accomplished pianist, thought
it child's play when some idiot threw firecrackers under his piano at
Bottles (bar) during a verse of "All The Things You Are."
Around 1960, he started leading impromptu jazz and bossa nova jams on Sunday afternoons at the Little Club, which served as rites of initiation for hundreds of Rio teenagers and many amateur musicians. The jams were good business for everyone."
And from another section of the
book: "There was another important person in the audience: Dave
Cavanaugh, president of Capitol Records. In the weeks that followed,
he recorded two albums with Sergio Mendes and the group Brasil '65.
Mendes felt that those records would set them on their way, and got
in touch with Nesuhi Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records and
someone who used to frequent the Lane (club) in Rio. At Atlantic, he
recorded other albums with Brasil '65, one of them with arrangements
by people with ties to bossa nova, like Clare Fischer, or merely with
a wide scope of experience, like Bob Florence--but neither one of
them did much for Dori Caymmi and Edu Lobo's songs, which Sergio was
introducing. He still hadn't hit upon the formula he wanted; his
albums continued to sound like a trio from the Lane expanded with
string or brass instruments, but a trio from the Lane
Guitarist Rosinha de Valença and drummer Chico Batera also returned at the end of 1965, and Sergio Mendes brought over guitarist-composer Marcos Valle, his breathtakingly beautiful wife, Ana Maria, and drummer João Palma to replace them.
With the implosion of The
Beatles the following year, Sergio Mendes became the greatest
influence on the pop market. At the end of 1965, he had decided to
experiment with a new formula for the group, then called Brasil '66,
and hired two femal vocalists to sing in English; he switched the
rhythmical ingredients around, eliminated every last vestige of jazz
influence, and created a comination of samba, pop, and bossa nova;
and began to use the more dance-oriented themes that young Brazilian
composers offered him. [. . .] In 1966, Mendes released
several hit singles and the LP Look Around. In 1968, Brasil
'66 had already sold four million singles of "Fool on the Hill"--more
than The Beatles had sold of their own recording. [. . .]
In just two years, from 1966 to 1968, the group had already played in hundreds of American cities, toured the whole of Europe (sometimes playing in two countries on the same day), Australia and the Far East, particularly Japan, where they played twenty-seven cities on each tour--at a minimum of two Japanese tours per year. At first, Sergio Mendes was opening several shows for Frank Sinatra, but shortly afterward, he wasn't opening shows for anyone."