AKA Sergio Santos Mendes
Birthplace: Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: Bossa Nova bandleader
Born and raised in Brazil, Sergio Mendes received his musical training at a Niteroi conservatory, emerging as skilled pianist in the late 1950s. At the age of 15 he abandoned classical music in favor of the Latin/jazz genre known as Bossa Nova, and by 1961 was a prominent exponent of this new style as leader of The Bossa Rio Sextet. Having established himself in Europe, Mendes headed to the U.S. in 1962 to perform at Birdland, where he and his band would share the stage with Cannonball Adderley. The two subsequently recorded an album together for Capitol Records. In 1964 he permanently relocated to New York, and after a brief period of working on other musician's albums formed the band Brasil '65, also under the auspices of Capitol.
The response to Brasil '65 was mild, and the following year Mendes made some personnel changes and signed to A&M Records with the updated name of Brasil '66. The new band featured A&M co-founder Herb Alpert's wife Lani Hall on vocals, and created a distinctive sound that propelled its debut release into the top ten of the pop charts. A second album the following year (Equinox) maintained the group's popularity, only to be surpassed in 1968 by the third release, Look Around, which featured a Bossa Nova take on both The Beatles' Fool on the Hill and Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair.
Concurrent to his deal with A&M, Mendes made a number of light jazz records with Atlantic Records throughout the remainder of the 1960s. The Atlantic releases never achieved the popularity of his Brasil '66 material, and by 1972 even the latter (now operating under the name Brasil '77) was no longer attracting attention. A&M dropped the band that same year; a brief period with Bell records yielded a single record, and in 1975 Mendes left the band behind to begin a solo career with Elektra. The success gained by his earlier releases continued to be elusive, however, and even another updating of his band as Sergio Mendez and the New Brasil '77 failed to generate much interest. An extended hiatus from recording and performance would follow.
In 1982, Mendes resumed his relationship with A&M and released a second eponymous solo album a year later. The album made its way into the top 40 and featured his most successful single, Never Gonna Let You Go. This second burst of popularity lasted until 1984, after which Mendes made another retreat from the industry. Further updates of the Brasil project, Brasil '99 and Brasil 2000, have since taken place, with the latest incarnation integrating hip-hop into its Bossa Nova stylings.
Brasil '66 Keyboardist/Bandleader (1966-69)
Brasil '77 Keyboardist/Bandleader (1970-77)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Rio (3-Apr-2011) · Samba School Director [VOICE]
Be Cool (4-Mar-2005) · Himself
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