Sergio Mendes, producer, composer, arranger pianist, band leader and cultural sage, continues his magical ride with Bom Tempo, a beautiful slice of rhythmically fresh inspiration from the internationally celebrated artist. He remains as vibrant and vital today as he was when leading Brasil '66 to international superstardom. Mendes' modern sensibilities and ultra sensitivity to the intricate and beautiful Brazilian musical language he himself helped create has always been his focus. Bom Tempo expands the maestro's use of color, texture and street derived energy, highlighting his mastery of authentic Brazilian rhythms and composition. In the end, Bom Tempo is a brilliant summer day celebration.
"This is bom tempo music, good times music," says the Brazilian-born, U.S.-based Mendes, who sought to sum up the CD with a succinct Portuguese title. "It's all about the good times, good weather, good tempos. The album is about the diversity, joy and sensuality of Brazilian music-songs I previously recorded and some that I never have-played by Brazilian and American musicians."
Bom Tempo showcases songs from the crème de la crème of Brazilian songwriters (including Antonio Carlos Jobim, Gilberto Gil, Joao Donato, Carlinhos Brown, Jorge Benjor, Milton Nascimento and Moacir Santos) and a song from his old friend Stevie Wonder, written especially for Mendes in 1977, the simmering "The Real Thing" (first recorded on Sergio Mendes and the New Brasil '77 album). While many of Mendes' friends and long time collaborators are present on the album (including drummers Mike Shapiro and Vinnie Colaiuta, bassists Nathan Watts and Alphonso Johnson, guitarists Paul Jackson Jr. and Kleber Jorge, percussionist Gibi, vocalist Gracinha Leporace-the bandleader's wife-and songwriter-arranger-vocalist Carlinhos Brown, who was integral to the success of the Brasileiro album), newcomers are also in the mix.
Most prominent is Milton Nascimento, who contributes his own "Caxanga," a moody, mysterious children's song that he had only recorded once. He sings the lead vocal in his singular style and plays the acoustic guitar. Other standout musicians include Seu Jorge, one of Brazil's most promising singers, who is featured on two songs-"Maracatu Atomico" and "Maracatu Nation of Love"; young and talented singers Katie Hampton and Nayanna Holley and the brilliant horn section of Andrew Lippman and Bill Churchville all beautifully arranged by their colleague Scott Mayo. Prominent guitarist Jack Majdecki joined Mendes on this latest project as did gifted, versatile Brazilian rhythm designer, musician Mika Mutti.
Bom Tempo opens with a spirited, chant-like take on the Gil/Donato song "Emorio," featuring Holley and Brown on lead vocals. The latter contributes a funky rap that pays tribute to Brazil's songwriters. In the Afro-Brazilian mix are allusions to such Mendes' hits as "Mas Que Nada" and "The Frog." The second track, another dance-oriented jewel, "Maracatu Atomico," was a first-time rendering, complete with a great horn section and percussive beat, based on the Afro-Brazilian maracatu rhythm. Another song on the CD with the rhythm, "Maracatu (Nation of Love)" is a samba-infused beauty, featuring a gorgeous Jorge/Leporace conversation-like duet and luminous horns.
Bom Tempo features new interpretations of some Brazilian classics, including a fresh spin on "Ye-Me-Le", with a cool rap performed by new band member H2O and a remake of "Magalenha" (from the Grammy-winning Brasileiro album) that features great steel guitar, rap and body percussion contributions from Brown. Says Mendes: "Carlinhos was in Los Angeles for two weeks, so we decided to work on a new, special version of the song he wrote. I said, let's do a 2010 version that not only exhibits great Brazilian music but also pays tribute to the World Cup games this year. Because those soccer games will be played in Cape Town, South Africa, I had the idea of using some Zulu words as part of the song."
Proud of his Brazilian heritage and aware of the magic and seduction of his homeland's music, Mendes notes, "It started with Jobim, being played by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd with Astrud and Joao Gilberto; then it was myself with Cannonball Adderley; Ron Carter, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald recording with Jobim, and later David Byrne putting those compilation albums of a variety of Brazilian musicians playing all kinds of styles. He adds, "More recently (with Timeless and Encanto) the attraction continues, with will.i.am , John Legend, India.Arie, Fergie, and so many more, who love the music so much and were instrumental in helping to expose it to people in their audience. Even for Bom Tempo, when I met the 20-year-old DJ guys Bimbo Jones in London, they were totally into watching YouTube videos of Brasil '66. It just goes to show you that Brazilian music has a universal appeal and it IS timeless... " And so is Sergio Mendes.