Happy Birthday Sergio Mendes

February 11, 1941


A tribute to the popular pianist whose roots are in jazz

Pianist and leader Sergio Mendes was born on February 11, 1941 in Niterol, Brazil near Rio de Janeiro.

Originally Mendes planned to become a classical pianist, but he turned towards jazz and was working in nightclubs by the late 1950s.

Mendes was part of the Brazilian bossa-nova movement, forming the Sexteto Bossa Rio in 1961.

In his early period, he was a jazz pianist, recording with Herbie Mann in Brazil (1962), Cannonball Adderley (during a visit to New York later that year), and Paul Winter (1964) in addition to making his own Brazilian jazz recordings; his album The Swinger From Rio from late-1964 featured Art Farmer, Hubert Laws and Phil Woods.

His music began to change the following year when he led Brazil ’65 which was followed by the more pop-oriented Brasil ’66, a group that was a giant commercial success with its hit “Mas Que Nada.”

Mendes’ group, which featured two vocalists, had additional hits with “The Look Of Love,” “The Fool On The Hill” and “Scarborough Fair.”

The pianist has continued leading bands on an occasional basis in the decades since Brazil ’66.

Here is Sergio Mendes performing “Mas Que Nada” with Brazil ‘66 on an Eartha Kitt television special from 1967.


Sergio Mendes, piano, vocals
Lani Hall, vocals
Bibi Vogel, vocals
Bob Matthews, bass
Joao Palma, drums
Jose Soares, percussion

-Scott Yanow


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