Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 - Mas que nada, from Eartha Kitt’s Something Special 1967.
Sergio Mendes was born in Niterói, across the bay from Rio de Janeiro, in 1941. He was a fixture at a very young age in the little clubs in Copacabana’s Beco das Garrafas, where he added his jazz-influenced piano to the ongoing sessions. Early on, Mendes recorded albums such as Sergio Mendes & Bossa Rio and was a participant on jazz-bossa albums with Cannonball Adderley (Cannonball’s Bossa Nova), Herbie Mann, and Paul Winter. In 1964, he moved to the United States and cut an album called Sergio Mendes and Brasil 1965. His sound mixed bossa nova, American pop, and MPB in a light, upbeat blend, usually with two female vocalists singing in unison, while a drummer — João Palma and Dom Um Romão were two — layed down a trademark crisp, catchy beat.
The Mendes formula was a huge success, starting with his A&M album Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66, which hit number 7 on the pop charts and included renditions of Jorge Bem’s “Mas Que Nada,” Jobim’s “Aqua De Beber,” and Baden Powell’s “Berimbau.” The album went gold, as did Sergio’s next three records (Equinox, Look Around, and Fool On The Hill). Mendes’s band scored two top 10 singles at that time, as well as a lesser hit with “Mas Que Nada,” sung in Portuguese. He was the Brazilian recording artist who reaped the most commerical success from the North American bossa boom in the 1960s.
Sergio is a bandleader who has been able to surround himself with top-flight musical talent and translate Brazilian sounds for international ears. His albums have marked the first times that many foreigners have heard material by Jobim, Ben (now known as Benjor), Ivan Lins, Milton Nascimento, Gilberto Gil, Guinga, and other leading Brazilian songwriters. Mendes stepped out of his usual mold with Primal Roots (1977), which included folkloric styles in the mix, and the Grammy-winning Brasileiro (1992), which showcased rising Bahian songwriter Carlinhos Brown and fused MPB and Rio samba with axé music and funk (see: Brasileiro Liner Notes). Sergio Mendes and his bands — in their various incarnations — have done much to spread Brazilian music around the world, and his light, smooth renditions of bossa and MPB standards have gained a new popularity in recent years with the global resurgence of bossa nova.