Take two top notch performers that can merge samba, bossa nova and jazz together and the result is a fabulous evening of music at the Music Center at Strathmore.
Sergio Mendes has been performing and recording for over fifty years now. His hits include “The Look of Love” and “Fool on the Hill” which he recorded with his group named Brazil ’66. In 1977 with Brazil ’77 (notice a trend?) he released one of my favorite albums called Love Music which featured his distinct Brazilian take on songs like “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Where is the Love.”
The opening act for Mendes was a doozey of a singer named Eliane Elias. Elias is the female equivalent to Mendes as she is a Brazilian born musician, singer, composer and arranger and is equally as talented.
With her quartet consisting of Elias on piano and vocals, Rubens de La Corte on guitar, Marc Johnson on bass and Rafael Barata on drums Elias started things out with “Ladeira Da Preguica” and kept the energy up with her next piece “Chega de Saudade.” Elias then bought it down with a neat samba take on Gershwin’s “Embraceable You.” It is always nice to hear a standard reinvented. Elias ended her portion of the evening with “Chiclete con Banana” which translated means “Gum with Banana.”
…a fabulous evening of music.
Once Sergio Mendes took to the stage the energy in the house that was pretty high already from Elias’s performance surged to epic proportions. Starting things off with “Magalenha” we were taken on as Mendes called it “a musical journey” through Mendes’s long and distinguished career.
With songs ranging from “Waters of March” to one of Mendes’s signature numbers “Mas Que Nada” the distinct arrangements demonstrate why Mendes has survived in the ever changing music industry. If you think about it, Mendes and Brazil ’66 were one of the first groups to take popular music, infuse it with a Brazilian flavor and have it crossover to the masses.
A few of the many highlights of the evening included “Never Gonna Let You Go” which featured vocalists Katie Hampton and Scott Mayo who also doubled on keyboards and horns. The percussion feature with soloist GIBI was a real treat. Hearing Mendes’s wife Gracinha Leporace featured on “The Look of Love” just proves that some things never get old. Here is a case where no matter how many times you hear that recording, which is pretty terrific; the added energy of it being performed live is that much more enjoyable.
One fact you might not know is that Mendes was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the animated film Rio and as an encore we were treated to the main theme from that film.
I will admit that the rap artist performing with Mendes named H20 felt a little out of place. I get that maybe merging the two musical styles appeals to a younger crowd and H20 is very talented, but for me, H20’s urban rap rhythms against Mendes’s lilting Brazilian tones didn’t mesh for me.
Overall the evening was twofold. I was introduced to an artist I hadn’t heard before and was totally taken in by the many talents of Eliane Elias. I also finally got to see Sergio Mendes live. He is a legend of his genre and after listening to his recordings for so many years, I can say without a doubt, I was not disappointed. I love it when that happens.
Running Time: Two Hours and 20 minutes with one intermission.
Sergio Mendes with Eliane Elias was a one night only concert event at the Music Center at Strathmore. For upcoming events click here. To learn more about Eliane Elias and Sergio Mendes click here and here.