Brazilian-born keyboardist/composer/producer Sergio Mendes has spent four decades Americanizing his country’s samba and bossa nova while Brazilianizing American pop. In 2006, he released Timeless, an all-star project (co-produced by will.i.am) that introduced classics of Brazilian popular music to the iPod generation. Now, Encanto (Enchantment), recorded in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, features even more all-stars, with an international cast ranging from the Colombian star Juanes to Belgium’s Zap Mama to Italian rapper Jovanotti. A funky, Carioca-cadenced remix of Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love” features a half-rap vocal from Fergie with will.i.am on the assist, while Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Agua de Beber” is transported from Corcovado to California with the help of Brazilian guitar whiz Toninho Horta. Other Jobim jewels include the Ledisi-laced, house-friendly “Waters of March”; Natalie Cole’s jazzy, Ella-licious rendition of “Somewhere in the Hills”; and “Dreamer,” with original Brazil 66 member Lani Hall’s achy-breaky vocals intertwining with husband Herb Alpert’s Milesian trumpet.
Throughout, Mendes’s finessed Fender Rhodes provides fills and thrills with bop-ish brevity while he gives us the best of both hemispheres.
Sergio Mendes plays Carnegie Hall June 21, carnegiehall.org