Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66
After bouncing around Philips, Atlantic, and Capitol playing Brazilian jazz or searching for an ideal blend of Brazilian and American pop, Sergio Mendes struck gold on his first try at A&M (then not much more than the home of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and the Baja Marimba Band). He came up with a marvelously sleek, sexy formula: dual American female voices singing in English and Portuguese over a nifty three-man bossa nova rhythm/vocal section and Mendes’ distinctly jazz-oriented piano, performing tight, infectious arrangements of carefully chosen tunes from Brazil, the U.S., and the U.K. The hit was Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada,” given a catchy, tight bossa nova arrangement with the voice of Lani Hall soaring above the swinging rhythm section. But other tracks leap out as well; the obvious rouser is the Brazilian go-go treatment of the Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” but the sultry treatment of Henry Mancini’s “Slow Hot Wind” and the rapid-fire “Tim Dom Dom” also deserve mention.
Released along with a slew of other A&M greatest-hits collections, 1970’s Greatest Hits takes listeners through a dozen Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 tunes from the albums Herb Alpert Presentsthrough Crystal Illusions. Not all of these were hits — indeed, not all of them were singles — and they are not representative of the wide range of Brazilian material that Mendes cut during this period. But listeners do get a good idea of how Mendes’ winningly sexy blend of American female voices, simplified bossa nova rhythms, and lavish Dave Grusin orchestrations captivated mainstream America in the late ’60s.