Master Composers: From respected jazz pianist to international pop stars, Herb Alpert paved the way for Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

By his late teenage years, Sergio Mendes began to team up in group tours throughout Brazil.  Teaming up with the likes of Stan Ketz, Flavio Ramos, and Antonio Carlos Jobim, these were modest beginnings in the early days of bossa nova.

However, it wasn’t until Wanda Sa came around in 1965 that Americans began to briefly notice (I will cover her albums in another separate blog).

With Mendes recently celebrating his 72nd birthday on February 11, I thought it would be fun to showcase his primary albums during the entire month of March with the group that made them household names on both ends of the Equator.


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Brazilian born Wanda Sa was replaced with Chicago native Lani Hall (who would later marry Herb Alpert) and Bibi Vogel (who is pictured on the album cover seen above).  Vogel was later replaced on vocals with Janis Hansen on the first few albums.

One look at the liner notes and instantly, the listener should become hooked:

Derek Taylor:  “I cannot see how substantial international achievement can elude this group who have marketed, with considerable taste, a delicately-mixed blend of pianistic jazz, subtle Latin nuances, Lennon-McCartneyisms, some (Henry) Mancini, here and there a touch of (Burt) Bacharach, cool, minor chords, danceable up-beat, gentle laughter, and a little sex.

The “Brasil” of the title was selected because the group was established in Ipanema and ’66, as you’ve guessed, is the year of the unit’s creation.”

Herb Alpert closed out the liner notes on his A&M release in which this album would be inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2011:  “From the first note I was grinning like a kid who’d just found a new toy.  The group is headed by an amazingly talented piano playing arranger…Sergio Mendes.”

Along with Jose Soares primarily on percussion and Joao Palma on drums, the very first track launched them into international breakout stars.

Here is one of the group’s biggest hits that drove their popularity way up into the music stratosphere–a much faster, hippier version of the Jorge Ben song called “Mais Que Nada” (or translated into English meaning, “More than nothing”, or “come on”, “no way”, “Whatever”, or “Yeah, right, sure!”)

Without a doubt, I really, really hope, wish, and pray that this song is one of the first sets of songs to be performed during the Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Other songs include “One Note Samba/Spanish Flea”, “The Joker”, a hit from Little Anthony and the Imperials in “Going Out Of My Head” and the Beatles’ iconic tune, “Day Tripper.”

Recorded in Hollywood in 1966.

Next week, I will dive into the group’s sophomore effort with two 3-letter words and yet another Beatles classic.


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