Brazil’s Sergio Mendes: 40 Years of Bossa

Sergio MendesPiano man Sergio Mendes was a young man barely in his 20s when the Bossa nova craze, led by Antonio Carlos Jobim, João Gilberto and Vinicius de Moraes, among others, took over the music scene in Brazil.

It wasn’t long before Mendes, who had studied to become a classical performer, was playing alongside the genre’s creators (Jobim would go on to be his mentor), ultimately appearing at the now-historic “Bossa Nova at Carnegie Hall” concert, where he was featured with likes of João Gilberto and Roberto Menescal.

The style itself, which was in its infancy back then, grew in the hands of the jazz-influenced Mendes, who was a fan of cats such as Stan Kenton and Horace Silver.

The Brazilian papers called what he was doing “Hard Bossa” because of his improvisational, bebop-like approach to the music, which was a far cry from the cool, sensitive touch that Gilberto brought to it.

“All the drumsticks that João thought he had eliminated from Brazilian music were there,” wrote Ruy Castro in his book on the history of bossa-nova, No More Tears, “and they were louder than ever”.

Shortly after the Carnegie Hall showcase, he emigrated into the United States, where two years later he would release his multi-platinum Brazil 1966 album, which brought a sophisticated, East-Coast sound to Brazilian music, ultimately cementing his career here and making standards out of songs like Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada”.

With the end of the bossa wave, his career temporarily stalled in the U.S., but he went on making albums that sold relatively  well in Asia and Latin America.

As the World Music term came into existence in the late 80s, Mendes found himself on the comeback trail, and even though he is not too appreciated in his native country for making Brazilian music too accessible to international tastes, he has won the respect of jazz fans around the globe.

Sergio Mendes & Brazil 2005
Tuesday, November 22 through November 27
Blue Note, 131 W 3 St.(at 6 avenue); 212-475-8592
8 and 10:30; $ 30 at the bar, $ 40 + $ 5 min. table.
For more information, visit www.bluenote.net

Ernest Barteldes is a freelance writer based on Staten Island, New York. He is a regular contributor to The Miami New Times, Brazzil, The New York Press, Global Rhythm magazine and All About Jazz-NY. He is also a columnist with The Brasilians and The Greenwich Village Gazette. His work has also appeared on The Staten Island Advance, The Florida Review (in Portuguese), Today’s Latino (in Spanish), Out Magazine, The New York Blade, The Boston Bay Windows, The New Times BPB, The Village Voice and other publications. He can be reached at ebarteldes@yahoo.com.

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