More than forty years after his genre-bending - and ultimately groundbreaking - work with Brasil 66, Brazilian producer/keyboardist/composer/bandleader Sergio Mendes continues to borrow elements of traditional as well as contemporary styles from either side of the Equator and all points on the globe and seamlessly graft them to his deep Latin jazz foundations. "Every time I make a new album," says Mendes, "it's a new musical adventure."
His latest adventure is Bom Tempo, an album that represents the next artistic step on his prolific Concord journey that began with Timeless in 2006, followed by Encanto two years later. Borrowing from the songbooks of great Brazilian composers like Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Milton Nascimento and others (plus one offering penned by American pop icon Stevie Wonder), Bom Tempo expands Mendes' use of color, texture and street-derived energy, highlighting his mastery of authentic Brazilian rhythms and composition. The Portuguese title succinctly captures the spirit of the music within, says Mendes: "This is bom tempo music, good times music."
But the good times get even better when a crew of cutting edge producers take Mendes' innovative blueprint a step further. Bom Tempo Brasil is a collection of remixes that push Mendes' original vision and passion to a new level by laying additional shades of soul, funk, electronica and hip-hop onto the maestro's already rich palette.
There's plenty of energy from the get-go, as producer Paul Oakenfold puts a thumping groove underneath the Afro-Brazilian beat of the lead-off track, "Maracatu Atomico." The result is an urgent backbeat that propels Seu Jorge's spirited vocals to an almost hypnotic level. Oakenfold is back much later in the sequence, adding a layer of sheen to vocalists Nayanna Holley and Carlinhos Brown in their delivery of "Emorio," a composition that tips its hat to earlier Mendes hits like "Mas Que Nada" and "The Frog."
Chuckie remixes and re-imagines "Ye-Me-Le," the title track to Mendes' 1969 Verve recording. The track positions the vocal work of Gracinha Leporace (Mendes' wife) and Katie Hampton atop a churning undercurrent that flirts with numerous effervescent crescendos before slipping into an understated fadeout.
Roger Sanchez puts a frenetic spin on "Pais Tropical," a Jorge Benjor composition that Mendes first borrowed for his 1971 album of the same name. In this outing, Sanchez wraps the rhythm around a virtual chorus of vocalists: Leporace, Hampton, Mendes, Jessica Taylor and Kleber Jorge.
In "Waters of March," producer Paul Harris injects the Jobim classic with a persistent and intriguing electro-African beat that underscores the mesmerizing work of Afro-Belgian vocalist Zap Mama (aka Marie Daulne).
Marc Jackson Burrows and Lee Dagger - otherwise known as Bimbo Jones - bring a fresh perspective to Stevie Wonder's "The Real Thing" by positioning Hampton's lead vocals in a tight arrangement of keyboards, horns and percussion. "When I met the 20-year-old DJ guys Bimbo Jones in London, they were totally into watching YouTube videos of Brasil '66," Mendes recalls. "It just goes to show you that Brazilian music has a universal appeal and it is timeless."
Olivia and Miriam Nervo close the set by taking Mendes' iconic1966 hit, "Mas Que Nada," to an otherworldly place with countless layers of pulsating electronic effects, a stunning, adventurous take on a Brazilian classic.
Paradoxical as it might seem, that kind of juxtaposition is what Bom Tempo Brasil is all about. "I wanted to create a collection of songs that are mostly uptempo, fresh and danceable, so that young people can relate to them," says Mendes of his work on Bom Tempo. "I want to reintroduce great Brazilian melodies in a different way and communicate with a new audience." Aided by a crew of innovative producers, Bom Tempo Brasil takes a huge step forward in that endeavor.