The first Sergio Mendes LP bears few of the soft pop hallmarks of his subsequent Brasil '66 classics. Instead, Dance Moderno is a focused and straight-ahead collection of bossa nova grooves firmly in debt to the acknowledged master of the form, Antonio Carlos Jobim. Paired with a small, tight supporting unit, Mendes proves himself an inventive and intense pianist, shaped by both traditional Latin music and American jazz.
The sound and band that served Sergio Mendes well on Fool on the Hill remain intact on Crystal Illusions, with few modifications. Dave Grusin is right there with a lush, haunting orchestral chart when needed; Lani Hall is thrust further into the vocal spotlight, as cool and alluring as ever in Portuguese or English. Mendes remained on the lookout for fresh Brazilian tunes, and he came up with a coup, one of the earliest covers of a Milton Nascimento tune to reach North America, "Vera Cruz" (with Hall's English lyrics, it became "Empty Faces"), as well as Dori Caymmi's "Dois Dias."
Reissue with the latest 24bit remastering. Features original cover artwork. Comes with a descripton in Japanese. That's Brasil 65, not Brasil 66 – a distinction that marks a key early stage for the great Sergio Mendes – heard here on one of his first albums to mix together bossa jazz and vocals! The approach here is a bit more like vintage bossa dates from Brazil – or a bit like some of the Verve bossa records too – as Sergio's core trio is at the heart of every tune, playing with a great jazzy approach – then augmented in different ways by alto and flute from Bud Shank, guitar from Rosinha De Valenca, and vocals from the lovely Wanda De Sah! Production is perfect – really in a classic Elenco Records mode – and titles include "Let Me", "Consolacao", "Tristeza Em Mim", "Muito A Vontade", "Reza", "Berimbau", and "Aquarius".
This album is the second of the studio recordings by Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 with A & M Records label, and is certainly one of the top of his production. Composers like Jorge Ben, Michel Legrand, Joao Gilberto, Cole Porter and Antonio Carlos Jobim bring creations that are splendidly arranged by Sergio Mendes, who can find fused arrangements between pop and jazz, wrapped by the great Brazilian rhythms, bossa nova and samba. Mendes offers a very personal sound, in which rhythm, melody and rich harmonies create a soft sophisticated atmosphere with its warm emotions.
As Sergio Mendes reached the peak of his first A&M period with Brasil '66, his old company, Atlantic, continued to release new instrumental Mendes albums, of which this was the last. As on the Brasil '66 recordings of the time, Mendes exposes fresh material from the '60s bumper crop of great Brazilian songwriters: Edu Lobo, Dori Caymmi, Baden Powell, Chico Buarque, and Caetano Veloso.
The musical relationship between Sergio Mendes and Antonio Carlos Jobim was a very important one in the careers of both men. Jobim was, of course, the premier composer of bossa nova, and Mendes was one of the most important popularizers of Brazilian music, helping to bring Jobim's compositions to a very wide audience. Mendes recorded 11 of Jobim's songs overthe course of his first two Atlantic Records albums. The Beat of Brazil and The Swinger From Rio, Featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim, the latter of which is reissued here.
At long last, Sergio Mendes seemed to be getting a bit weary of the constant chore of chasing hits in the North American pop field, and the siren call of his native Brazil beckoned. So while the overall sound of Arara remains mostly stuck in Mendes' '80s dance-pop manner, the material is all Brazilian and the CD is sometimes open to more complex rhythms than what Mendes had been using since the mid-'70s. In other words, this is not far away from the concept that The Manhattan Transfer tried on its Brasil album, but not nearly as bold nor as moving.
Upon his first move away from A&M, Sergio Mendes signed with Bell, known mostly for pop fluff on the level of the Partridge Family, and practically jettisoned Brazil in search of a return ticket to the pop charts. Bones Howe is totally in charge of the production, Mendes has little to do with the arrangements (Bob Alcivar and Tom Scott handle them), and half of the material is Top 40 pop. It's surprisingly pleasant at times, too, with some traces of the Mendes '66-'77 sound still audible. But Mendes is a much more interesting musician than you'd suspect from hearing this – and no, it didn't exactly send Top 40 radio into ecstasy.
Perhaps the Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 sound was at last beginning to show signs of wear, for not only didn't Ye-Me-Le produce any hits ("Wichita Lineman" reached a lowly number 95), but the album is also less enterprising and fresh-sounding than its predecessors. There is a surprising shortage of Brazilian material, which was always Mendes' most valuable contribution in the long run, and more reliance upon routine covers of pop/rock standards like "Easy to Be Hard" and "What the World Needs Now." But there are special moments, like the hypnotic "Masquerade" (no relation to the Leon Russell/George Benson hit), Sergio Mihanovich's haunting "Some Time Ago," and another winning treatment of a Beatles tune, "Norwegian Wood," where Mendes cuts loose a killer solo on electric piano (believe it or not, the 45 rpm single version features more of that solo than the LP).