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Sergio Mendes | Features





It's not often an album comes along that truly blends two distinct cultures in an innovative way. That album is Timeless by Sergio Mendes, due out on February 14 as a co-release by Concord Records and Starbucks Hear Music.

Produced by and featuring of the Black Eyed Peas, Timeless is a wholly original blend of music from one of the most internationally successful Brazilian musicians of all time, Sergio Mendes, who--40 years ago--brought Brasil '66 and "Mas Que Nada" to the world. Will and Sergio brought in the Black Eyed Peas, one of hip-hop's premier artists, and also recruited some of pop music's biggest artists, each a Sergio fan, to contribute to various tracks, including Justin Timberlake, Stevie Wonder, Erykah Badu, india.arie, Black Thought of The Roots, John Legend, Chali 2na of Jurassic 5, Jill Scott, and Q-Tip, among others.

The album's first radio track, "Yes, Yes Y'all" (feat. Black Thought of The Roots and Chali 2na of Jurassic 5) has already hit number 1 on the Top 50 Airplay Chart at KCRW, the influential Los Angeles public radio station. KCRW Music Director Nic Harcourt calls Timeless "A new spin from a timeless master.'s brilliance will bring Sergio's music to a whole new audience." Look for Sergio and to perform on an episode of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on Thursday, February 2.

Sergio describes Timeless--recorded in Brazil and Los Angeles--as a ". . .wonderful marriage of rhythms, because it's all African rhythms and haunting melodies…the same common denominator that brought the samba to Brazil and brought jazz to America."

Will says, "Hip-hop is urban to America, but samba and bossa nova are urban to Brazil. It's two urban cultures clashing and fusing together beautifully, because they share a lot of the same qualities."

Of working with Sergio, Justin Timberlake said, "Sergio's creation of chord progressions has heavily influenced modern R & B, specifically now. He is a legend and a beautiful person. It was a pleasure to work with him." Black Thought of The Roots adds, "I've had the opportunity to work with just about everyone I've desired to work with and now the legendary Sergio Mendes! It was an honor to be able to collaborate with such a cool, unorthodox, timeless and well-rounded musician. He's quite an inspiration."

Sergio has previously recorded with and the Black Eyed Peas on their last two albums as well as their performance together in the 2005 feature film Be Cool. When they first met, Sergio says, "Will came to my house with a lot of old vinyl that I recorded many years ago. And I was so surprised. It was like, 'Wow!' He knew every song. He knows every Brazilian riff. I could just feel his passion for the music. We talked and I said, 'You know what? You love Brazilian music. Why don't we bring the Brazilian music and melodies to the hip-hop urban world and put them together? I think we can make something really different.'"

Sergio Mendes is the most internationally successful Brazilian artist of all time. From the mid 1960s to the late ‘70s, Mendes established his legend by taking numerous albums and singles, such as “Brasil 66,” “Mas Que Nada,” and “The Look of Love,” to the top of the pop charts.

It was those Sergio classics that won the heart and mind of evolving musical legend, chief producer and songwriter of the Black Eyed Peas. One of the most successful rap acts of this decade, the band’s 2005 album, Monkey Business, is the urban pop crossover phenomenon of the year. Will collaborates with Sergio on the iconic pianist’s upcoming Concord Records/Starbucks Hear Music album, Timeless, Mendes’ first new release in eight years. For Will (who claims Mendes’ “Slow Hot Wind,” reworked on Timeless as “That Heat,” is the first song he ever sampled while still an East L.A. teen), working with Sergio Mendes has been a dream come true. As Will states: “This album has been fourteen years in the making.”

Things began rolling when Will invited Sergio to play piano on the cut “Sexy” from the Peas’ multi-platinum Elephunk album. Much to his amazement, Will discovered A&M Record’s President could arrange a meeting with his idol. The seed was planted. And the rest, as they say, is history.

“He came to my house with a lot of old vinyl that I recorded many years ago,” remembers Sergio. “And I was so surprised. It was like, ‘Wow!’ He knew every song. He knows every Brazilian riff. I could just feel his passion for the music. We talked and I said, ‘You know what? You love Brazilian music. Why don’t we bring the Brazilian music and melodies to the hip-hop urban world and put them together? I think we can make something really different.’”

“It turned into a wonderful marriage of rhythms,” Sergio continues, “because it’s all African rhythms and haunting melodies. It’s all about the same beats that we inherited from Africa. It’s that same common denominator that brought the samba to Brazil and brought jazz to America. We had a ball.”

“Hip-hop is urban to America,” adds Will, “but samba and bossa nova are urban to Brazil. It’s two urban cultures clashing and fusing together beautifully, because they all share a lot of the same qualities.”

Putting together the project, Will and Sergio, of course, brought in the Black Eyed Peas. They also recruited some of the biggest urban-pop artists of the last several decades, each a Sergio fan, to contribute to various tracks. Featured artists include Erykah Badu, Justin Timberlake, India.Arie, Q-Tip, John Legend, Jill Scott, Stevie Wonder, and members of The Roots and Jurassic 5.

The involvement of Wonder (Mendes wrote Portuguese lyrics to one of Wonder’s songs many years ago) was fortuitous.

“Perfect timing,” says Will. “Me and Sergio had just finished in the studio at the Record Plant. Sergio left, and I was working on stuff until four o’clock in the morning. Then Venus, my partner, says ‘Hey, Stevie Wonder’s in the next hallway!’ So we went over and I said, ‘Mr. Wonder, I’m working on the new Sergio Mendes project.’ Oh, I love Sergio!’ he says. ‘I haven’t seen Sergio in about 15 or 20 years.’ So I was like, ‘we’d love, love to have you play harmonica or sing on one of the songs.’ He said, ‘Let me hear what you guys got cooking up.’ So we walked over to the room, played him ‘Consolacao.’ He says, ‘Let me get a copy of that so I can take it home and learn the melody.’ And, then he came by two days later...”

“And it was magic,” interjects Sergio.

“Pure magic!” agrees Will.

It’s hardly surprising, though, that Mendes should also attract the affection of younger superstars as well. You see, over the last decade, despite his absence from the recording studio, Sergio Mendes has recently become hip all over again. DJs have been sampling his classic tracks in clubs. Japanese group Pizzicato Five have consistently named him a major influence; same with Chicago hipsters, the Aluminum Group.

Mendes’ music is so representative of his native Brazil, in fact, that the aforementioned “Mas Que Nada,” his first hit, has become synonymous with the country throughout the world. You’d almost have to be a hermit to have never heard the track...and to not immediately think of Brazil when you do. So it’s only fitting that a new version of the song should be the song Sergio and Will agreed upon to kickoff Timeless.

“From the beginning, Will and I decided to revisit many of the classics of the Brazilian songbook which I had recorded in the past,” says Sergio. “The combination of those great melodies and Will’s urban vision inspired me to bring those classics to a new dimension and to the streets of the world. It was very challenging, and I had a lot of fun with it.”

Among the album’s 15 tracks—which were recorded both in Brazil and at House of Blues Studios in Encino, CA—is another rerecording of a classic Mendes track, “The Frog,” featuring rapper Q-Tip. Will notes that he had sampled jazzy, Latin samba rhythms as far back as the early ‘90s on albums like Midnight Marauder, “so we thought it would be a perfect match to hook him up with Sergio.”

Romantic R&B crooner John Legend contributed vocals to a new song, “Please Baby Don’t,” which Sergio recorded in Manhattan with a band of New York-based Brazilian musicians, offering the same type of classic melody here (and elsewhere throughout the entire album) that made the pianist famous decades ago.

In many ways, the guest vocalists’ involvement seemed to snowball as the project evolved.

“I kept wondering how I was going to get someone like Justin Timberlake to like Brazilian music as much as I do,” explains Will. “But then, lo and behold, all the things started to fall together. We were making music and towards the end, Justin heard the India.Arie song (which, incidentally, happened to be the album’s title track). From that point on, he was like. ‘Yo! You gotta put me on that Sergio Mendes project. That India.Arie track is just crazy!’ And he ended up writing a song for Sergio and me. So it just happened like, Woosh!’ That’s how a lot of it actually came together.”

The young with the legendary. Latin and African polyrhythms merged with American urban music. More than 20 years after his last phenomenal hit, Sergio Mendes has returned with an album that promises to be just as phenomenal but even more revolutionary than his past smash accomplishments.

Will explains: “In the ‘60s, there was hippie music and, you know, soul music and rock, blues, jazz. And, then here comes Sergio Mendes saying, ‘Hey, have you heard Brazilian music?’ And he brought it to America. He imported it. You know what I mean? I’ve worked with James Brown, and he’s the one who brought funk to America. And now I’ve worked with Sergio Mendes, and he’s also responsible for bringing a whole genre of music to the United States. It’s like, you know, Earth, Wind & Fire wouldn’t be Earth, Wind & Fire if Sergio Mendes hadn’t brought samba and bossa nova to America.”

“But the only reason that you can call Timeless a ‘Brazilian record’ is because of Sergio Mendes’ blood. He comes from Brazil so therefore it’s a Brazilian record,” he adds.

“The melodies are of Brazilian descent,” says Will. “But this album is a universal album.”

“The melody is always there,” says Sergio. “It comes in and makes you dream. You can dance. And it’s a romantic thing. I think people are going to find melodies to take home, to remember, to get romantic to, to dance to, to drive to, and to dream to.

“But, overall, yes, this is very universal.”

And, of course, timeless.

Born in Niteroi, a small town across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, son of D. Lourdes and Dr. Benedicto Mendes, a physician.

At 15, hears a jazz record – Dave Brubeck – at a friend’s house, and forms a group of jazz “aficionados”. Between the ages of 15 and 17 Sergio leads several musical groups, with different formations – trios, quartets, quintets.

At this time Sergio forms the “Bossa Rio Sextet”, with 2 trombones, tenor sax, piano, bass and drums. With this sextet Sergio records an LP – “Voce ainda nao ouviu nada” (“You haven’t heard anything…yet”). This record is an important landmark for music in Brazil.

1962 – Sergio goes to New York, during this trip, Sergio visits the famous “Birdland”, and hears, for the first time in person, John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Cannonball Adderley.

1964 – Sergio leaves Brazil, moves to California, with a group that he names “Brasil 64”.

1966 – Sergio decides to add females vocals to his instrumental sound, hires 2 singers, and finds out that, this way, he can achieve a new sound, as his trademark – “Brasil 66”.

Sergio signs with A&M Records, and Herb Alpert produces the first “Brasil 66” LP. It is the first time that a song, sung entirely in Portuguese, reaches the top 5 on the Billboard pop chart. The song is “Mas Que Nada”.

1967 – Sergio does his first long tour with Frank Sinatra, performing in several cities through the US. Sergio also tours with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Henry Mancini, Paul Anka, Jerry Lewis, etc.

1968 – Sergio does his first tour of Japan with Brasil ’66, opening the doors for Brazilian music in that country.

1980 – Frank Sinatra invites Sergio for a second tour, this time in the US and Europe.

1993 – Sergio is awarded a Grammy for his record entitled “Brasileiro”.

2005 – Sergio continues touring around the world. He has just finished a new album for Concord Records/Starbucks Hear Music entitled Timeless. Produced by, it features a stellar cast of guests that includes The Black Eyed Peas, Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, India.Arie, Justin Timberlake, Q-tip, Erykah Badu, and many others.

Sergio Mendes - Timeless


Sergio Mendes
Track by track
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1. Masquenada : Sergio & thought it was a great idea to remake it in a bossa nova/hip hop style, to expose it to a new generation on the 40th anniversary of Sergio's first recording of it.

2. The Heat : Contains a sample of "Slow Hot Wind" and it was Will's idea to sample it and bring Erykah into this very catchy track.

3.Berimbau/Consolacao : These two songs were written by legendary virtuoso guitarist/composer Baden Powell, a friend of Sergio's from the beginning of their careers, and Vinicius de Moraes. Gracinha Leporace, who is Sergio's wife and also a singer in his band for many years, is the lead singer on this track.

4. The Frog : Also recorded by Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66, this song, written by popular pianist /composer Joao Donato. Will's choice of Q-Tip for the track was a perfect one.

5. Let Me : Also written by Baden Powell with English lyrics by the extraordinary Norman Gimbel (who also wrote English lyrics for "The Girl from Ipanema" and many other Brazilian classics) and Jill Scott brings her very special touch to this bossa-nova classic.

6. Bananeira : Also written by Joao Donato, this time partnered with very popular singer/composer Gilberto Gil, and features a performance by Mr.Vegas.

7. Surfboard: It is impossible to speak of the great Brazilian songbook without mentioning the gems written by Jobim. It was a perfect vehicle for this "marriage" between bossa nova & hip hop.

8. Please Baby Don't : Written and sung by John Legend with a wonderfully warm, sensual vocal and superb bossa nova arrangement; this song is one of the jewels brought in by Will.

9. Samba Da Bencao (Samba Of The Blessing) : In another song by Baden Powell, also co-written by Vinicius de Moraes, Sergio and Will bring in the #1 rapper from Brazil, Marcelo D2.

10. Timeless : In this wonderful collaboration between Sergio, who wrote the melody, India.Arie, who wrote the inspired lyrics, in which she reminds us that "kindness is timeless", and Printz Board who brought in the rhythm track.

11. Loose Ends : Sergio had the idea to use the intro to his own song, "So Many Stars", recorded in 1967, with a beautiful orchestral arrangement by Dave Grusin. Justin Timberlake started singing over it, creating a great melody, with very strong lyrics. Later Will invited Pharaoh Monch to share rapping duties with him.

12. Fo-Hop : Written by Guinga, probably the most important Brazilian composer of his generation, who is also a very close friend of Sergio's, this song is a rhythmic gem. It features Guinga, Gracinha and again Marcelo D2.

13. Lamento (No Morro) : This song was one of the many jewels written by Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes. The guitar arrangement was written by one of them, Marcus Tardelli.

14. E Menina : Written by Joao Donato, this time with lyrics by Gutemberg Guarabyra.. The vocals are again done by Gracinha.

15. Yes Yes Yall : This song was originally recorded by Sergio in his album entitled "My Favorite Things", which came out on Atlantic Records, in 1968. It works perfectly as a background for the very powerful raps by Black Thought, Chali 2na, Will himself, and sensual vocals by Debi Nova.

Sergio Mendes The Official Website