Sergio Hits Down Under

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Steve Sidoruk

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He's still the man
November 10, 2006

One of Brazil's most famous non-footballing exports is coming to Australia to promote his 38th album and sample the local shiraz, reports Phillip McCarthy.

If Sergio Mendes had known how enduring his salsa-spritzed percussion sound would be - well beyond the cha-cha-cha pop of the swinging '60s - he might have steered clear of the decade's fad for casual, abbreviated numbering.

Calling your suddenly ultra-fashionable band Brazil '66 might have been the epitome of cool in 1966, when your vinyl was flying off the Latin rhythm racks, but where did it leave you when it was suddenly 1967? To say nothing of the next four decades.

"It didn't help," Mendes's vivacious wife, vocalist and longtime muse, Gracinha Leporace, explains. "It was an added end-of-year chore, you know, move the number up in the band's name and order new stationery. We'd let it go for a few years then there would be a new line-up so we'd adjust. It was Brazil '77 for a while and as soon as 1978 rolled around we jumped ahead to '88. In the end it's like your age. It's just a number."

And Mendes could always blame it on the bossa nova. But suddenly the title of his 38th album - his first in eight years and maybe the first Mendes-Brazil album to get airplay on rap and hip-hop format radio - seems laden with significance.

It's called, succinctly, Timeless. Digital liberation has come with an unexpected hip-hop flavour. Timeless was produced by the rapper will.i.am, of Black Eyed Peas fame, who rounded up hip-hop notables such as Q-Tip and Jurassic 5 as guest artists.

The CD's cross-genre success is the reason that Mendes, along with the latest incarnation of his percussion-piano-bass-plus-female-vocals ensemble, is returning to Australia for the first time in two decades.

Mendes is perhaps Hollywood's most celebrated Brazilian showbiz expatriate since Carmen Miranda. What she did for tropical fruit, he did for The Girl from Ipanema and Mas Que Nada.

It's a warm, sunny Los Angeles morning and Leporace and I are chatting on the porch of the Mendes home, a spacious villa tucked behind the Hollywood Hills in a gated community.

The house says a lot about the expatriates who live in it. The broad strokes are very Latin, from the rich woods of the interior to the profusion of plants on the patio. Some of the details - such as the modern, metallic art on the living room walls that turns out to be Japanese - suggest interests that are no longer focused on the old country. Like Mendes's music, it's a fusion thing.

Leporace still does vocals for the band - on Timeless she manages to wrap her voice around some pretty hard-edged sounds from the 'hood - but she's not coming to Australia: someone has to get their two youngest children off to school.

But her husband of 30 years is suddenly riding a hot streak again. After emerging from a concert tour strategy session, Mendes, in shorts and polo shirt, says: "Do I like hearing my songs on the radio again? You bet I do. But there were always countries where my stuff got played, even when there wasn't a Latin rhythm thing going on. South America, obviously, and also Japan. But I'm a big fan of shiraz, so I'm glad to be hitting Australia again.

"I've been at this a long time, I think I am a professional, and people don't insist that I do the same stuff I did 40 years ago. But if you go somewhere you like to be able to say, 'This is what I am doing now. It's new and different. Hope you like it."'

Still, fans hooked from the days of The Girl from Ipanema would be content with the nostalgia. But that's a bit too retro for Mendes who, at 65, wants nothing less than market share and a hip-hop audience. The way Mendes sees it, he's always done musical free association. He mixed the bossa nova of Antonio Carlos Jobim ( The Girl from Ipanema) with the Broadway of Rodgers and Hammerstein ( My Favourite Things). He did covers of Burt Bacharach ( The Look of Love), the Beatles ( The Fool on the Hill) and Cole Porter ( Night and Day). He shared songs with Roberta Flack, Johnny Nash, Stevie Wonder and the Carpenters. The biggest hit single of his career, Never Gonna Let You Go, wasn't in Portuguese and owed nothing to bossa nova - it was penned by New York husband-and-wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

"But I certainly never neglected Brazilian music," says Mendes. "I still go back every year to Rio, to see what's happening. Next trip will.i.am is coming with us. And I think I am as in touch as anyone [with] what's emerging and it's always exciting. I don't think anyone should be seen as doing the wrong thing if they don't stick to some rigid formula about what their country's music is all about.

"In my case a lot of that criticism comes from journalists down there and it is tied up with a whole separate political issue about the influence of the Americans in Latin politics and Latin culture. Somehow, especially because I live here, I'm seen as selling out. But of course when I first based myself here those same people would have applauded, we had a military dictatorship in Brazil and I was resisting it."

Like his 1960s collaborator Burt Bacharach, Mendes doesn't seem willing to settle for museum-piece status. Ironically, both have found edgy younger collaborators in different members of the Black Eyed Peas. Besides being the producer of Timeless, will.i.am adds an urban edge to six of the album's 15 tracks. Printz Board, the Peas' musical director and keyboard player, bassist, trumpeter and frequent songwriter, did similar duty on Bacharach's latest album, At This Time.

On Timeless, Mendes samples and overdubs freely and inserts rap passages into many of his early hits. His 1967 bossa nova hit, Joao Donato's The Frog, gets a hard, urban makeover courtesy of Q-Tip. Another single, the Henry Mancini number Slow Hot Wind, comes out of its hip-hop tune-up with a new name, That Heat. Mancini might be rolling in his grave.

"This is not a one-way transaction by any means," says Mendes. "One of the reasons people like will.i.am came to me is they understand that for all its strengths, their kind of music has one big deficiency: it has no melody. They want to learn about that, how to make their stuff a little more graceful to listen to, and that's one of the strengths of Latin music."

One thing about Mendes's professional longevity is that he has assembled a pretty comprehensive Rolodex. To paraphrase the lyrics of one of the Beatles songs he has covered, he gets by with a little help from his friends. The rappers aren't the only guest stars on Timeless; Stevie Wonder, who first appeared on a Mendes album in the 1970s, is there, along with Justin Timberlake.

"I'm just interested in music, all sorts of music and how it evolves," says Mendes. "You know, I started out training for classical piano and then the bossa nova bug bit and the rest is history. How it usually happens is that you run into these guys in recording studios, or at industry events and they turn out to have every album you've ever put out. Before you know it, you're sharing harmonies and notes."

Maybe it's good Mendes did away with the '60s apostrophe-and-date thing on Timeless. With Q-Tip's hyphenation infatuation, and will.i.am's fetish for lower case and strangely placed full stops, there may have been too much punctuation and not enough syncopation.

Sergio Mendes and Brazil '06 perform at the Sydney Opera House on Thursday.

The Sydney Morning Herald
http://www.smh.com.au/news/music/he...1162661832050.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1
 

Steve Sidoruk

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Sergio Mendes To Go Again With will.i.am

061112SergioMendes131106_1.jpg


by Paul Cashmere - November 13 2006
undercover.com
photo by Ros O'Gorman

Sergio Mendes will head back into the studio to record a follow-up to his 'Timeless' album with producer will.i.am from Black Eyed Peas.

Speaking to Undercover in Melbourne at the start of his first Australian tour in 21 years, Mendes said "I will be making another album soon and again it will be with will.i.am".

Their current album 'Timeless' features the A-List of special guest stars including Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Erykah Badu, India.Arie and Stevie Wonder.

"The next record will also be full of special guest," Sergio says "but I am yet to formally ask anyone".

Sergio and will.i.am will also perform a New Years Eve show in Brazil. "John Legend will be on the show with us" Sergio said.

Sergio Mendes kicks off his Australian tour in Melbourne tomorrow (Tuesday, November 14).

http://undercover.com.au/News-Story.aspx?id=914
 

TulitaPepsi

Well-Known Member
Suggestion: A new version of "Lost In Paradise" with Gracinha and Prince.

Please include Herb & Lani...and MORE DIVAS: Like Neneh Cherry and Sade!
 

Cortnee

Member
Don't get me wrong, I love Prince and he's one of my musical heroes, and I feel that the idea of Prince and Sergio working together sounds intriguing and fascinating, but I'm not so sure that Prince will sound good doing bossa nova & samba.
 

Mike Blakesley

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I guess Prince is genius enough to pull almost anything off, but I wonder if Sergio and Prince would get along in the studio. Sergio is used to creative control, and so is Prince. Might be a bit of a train wreck!
 

Cortnee

Member
once again, you could be right mike b. Prince and Sergio are 2 musical geniuses and they both like to be in full control of their projects.It sounds like they could have a problem with clashing of the egos and creative differences.everytime you turn around Prince and Sergio are both firing old band members, hiring new band members, and sometimes even rehiring old members.
 

Steve Sidoruk

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The Australian
Sydney

Brazilian rhythms buried
Eamonn Kelly
16nov06

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '06
Hamer Hall, Melbourne, November 14. Sydney Opera House, Friday. Tickets: $99-$120. Bookings: (02) 9250 7777. Queensland Performing Arts Centre, Brisbane, Saturday. Tickets: $101.75-$122.75. Bookings: 136246.

SERGIO Mendes is synonymous with 1960s bossa nova. In reality, his extensive oeuvre has been a continually evolving, symbiotic relationship between the broad panorama of Brazilian urban music traditions and mainstream Western popular music trends.
On his latest album, Timeless, this involves collaborating with American hip-hop, funk, pop and R&B artists, particularly the Black Eyed Peas.

A capacity crowd in Melbourne had plenty of long-time Mendes aficionados (Brasil '66 generation), and few of the under-35s that the Black Eyed Peas might have attracted to the cause. Yet there was real warmth and approval from the audience throughout, suggesting its trust in Mendes was sufficient to overcome any apprehensions about hip-hop and its marriage with samba. With Mendes at the helm of a dynamic nine-piece band, it seemed nothing could mar the evening.

Unfortunately, Mendes and his merry band were let down terribly by, of all things, an appalling sound system. The amplification levels and balance were inappropriate for the venue, whether the result of substandard sound design or poor handling at the controller's desk. The resulting sound had all the clarity of mud in a bathtub, favouring a dull bass thump and hyperactive drum kit at the expense of vocalists, keyboards and Afro-Brazilian percussion array. This totally undermined the experimental hip-hop fusion numbers: babble replaced the hip-hop fundamentals of diction and syllabic drive.

From what I could discern of the band's true sound, their performance was assured and energetic. The program evoked a stunning array of Afro-Brazilian traditions, and was best described as a celebration of Brazilian musical diversity rather than a tribute to bossa nova per se. An eclectic segment, highlighting the percussion, surveyed Brazilian musical flavours from maracatu to blocos afro, capoeira and samba de roda. The percussionists showed dexterity on every Afro-Brazilian instrument known (pandeiro, berimbau, agogo, etc) and also as acrobatic capoeiristas.

Dawn Bishop took the vocal lead for most of the Mendes favourites, her effusive style enchanting the audience and her voice the only instrument to successfully rise above the sound design's amorphous clutter. Mendes looked relaxed and comfortable in front of an enthusiastic audience. But on the sixth or seventh occasion that there was the unbearable screech of feedback, even the seasoned Brazilian performer couldn't conceal a wince.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20763818-5001562,00.html
 

JMK

Well-Known Member
Contributor
This is exactly what happened in Portland a few years ago. Sergio was quite concerned about it when I talked to him afterwards. I wonder what's going on.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Staff member
Moderator
Often such problems are the fault of either the sound mixer, or the person (or company) responsible for designing the sound system. The biggest concert venue near here, "MetraPark" in Billings, holds 12,500 people and has a reputation for sounding terrible....but I've been to some concerts there that sounded very good. I think quite a bit of the variables are in the mix.

Where a person is sitting can also have a profound effect. I went to a concert by REO Speedwagon in the aforementioned Metra a long time ago -- I thought it sounded terrible and so did my girlfriend at the time, but virtually everyone else I talked to said it sounded great. We finally decided it was caused by echoes etc in the area where we were sitting.

I never really thought about it, but good clear sound is probably even more important for a rap/hiphop show as it is for a rock show!
 

JMK

Well-Known Member
Contributor
Believe me, everyone (no matter where they were sitting) heard the repeated screeching feedback during Sergio's concert here! :)
 
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