Sergio Mendes – Magic – Okeh Records

Sergio Mendes – Magic – Okeh Records, 44:15 ****: 

(Sergio Mendes – piano/vocals; plus various artists including: Carlinhos Brown; will.i.am; John Legend; Gracinha Leporace; Janelle Monae; Milton Nascimento)

Sergio Mendes’ association with the Brazilian samba and bossa nova is as close as the association of bikinis with Copacabana. From his very first LP Danco Moderno to the many others under the rubric of Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66 to The New Brazil ’77 and now with his current release Magic, Sergio Mendes has kept the spirit of the music alive and has now brought it up to date.

In this new confection, Mendes has prevailed upon a number of artists whose contemporaneous styles are mixed freely with Brazilian musical genres, to create an infectious blend of rhythmic sounds. In the samba, the heart of Brazil beats, and Mendes showcases this on the opening and closing tracks namely, “Simbora (Let’s Go) and “ One Nation”. Both these tracks feature Carlhinos Brown, a Brazilian singer from Bahia, and for anyone who listens to the vinyl version of these cuts, the needle will be jumping off the turntable.

will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas’ gives an electronic beat to “My My My My Love” which is infectious in its own way, and John Legend’s  seductive vocal rides over the samba infused “Don’t Say Goodbye”. Another contemporary artist showcased to good effect is Janelle Monae whose take on the samba is deceivingly fresh on “Visions Of You”.

However the real insight into the music and its interpretation falls to the Brazilians who have lived with the form all their lives, and thus they know the territory well as evidenced by Gracinha Leporace’s ( Mendes’wife) take on  “When I Fell In Love” and “Hidden Waters”. So when one of Brazil’s national treasurers Milton Nascimento lays his falsetto pipes on “Olha a Rua” you have the real deal at work.

In over fifty years of preaching the gospel of Brazilian rhythms, Sergio Mendes shows no signs of slowing down nor of looking for new ways of updating this arresting music.

TrackList: Simbora (Let’s Go); My My My My Love; Don’t Say Goodbye; Sou Eu; When I Fell In Love; Meu Rio; Visions Of You; Samba de Roda; Atlantica; Olha a Rua; Hidden Waters; Magic; One Nation

—Pierre Giroux

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