Sergio remains a master of the Rhodes and as the UK hits summer he'll once again...
Garth Cartwright 2008
Sergio Mendes is one of popular music's most remarkable figures. The Brazilian master of both jazz piano and Fender Rhodes organ has spent his lifetime popularizing Brazilian samba for the West while interpreting pop hits (specifically by The Beatles but he's covered many, many others) as jazzy, bossa nova numbers. For a period in the late-1960s and early-1970s he sold huge numbers of records internationally: there was a lush, exotic quality to Mendes best music that made it popular in bars, clubs and holiday resorts. The 1990s found both a growing interest in Brazilian music and in the easy listening music of the 1960s: Sergio, of course, being a member of both camps. Suddenly advertisements and movies were licensing old Mendes tracks and he sounded very hip indeed.
So much so that Will.i.am, leader of pop rap outfit The Black Eyed Peas, co-produced Sergio's 2006 comeback album Timeless. By positioning the Peas, and especially frontwoman Fergie on certain tracks and their accompanying videos, Timeless got much greater airplay than anything Mendes had done for decades, or indeed in possibly his entire career. Why break a good formula? With Encanto (Enchanted) Mendes is back with Fergie on the opening track, and Will.i.am also pops up a couple of times. Fergie's contribution is a reworking of the Bacharach-David classic The Look Of Love, which has long been in Sergio's repertoire. Unfortunately, but perhaps unsurprisingly, her attempt at rapping Hal David's sublime lyrics brings nothing new to the song.
Yet don't let you put this off the album: the Americans are here to attract the attention of the iPod generation, but most of Encanto finds Sergio with Brazilian accompanists (Carlinhos Brown, Vanessa Da Mata) and such old friends as Herb Alpert and Natalie Cole. The result is a very pleasant album of bossa and samba with some contemporary pop touches. Sergio remains a master of the Rhodes and as the UK hits summer he'll once again provide a soundtrack to cocktails and tapas.