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Sergio Mendes & Bebel Gilberto bring bossa nova to Boston

Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein
Colette Greenstein has been a contributing arts & entertainment writer for the Banner since 2009. VIEW BIO
Sergio Mendes & Bebel Gilberto bring bossa nova to Boston
Sergio Mendes PHOTO: COURTESY OF CELEBRITY SERIES OF BOSTON

For more than 50 years, Grammy-winning producer, keyboardist and vocalist Sérgio Mendes has been sharing his music across the globe as one of Brazil’s unofficial ambassadors.

Bebel Gilberto PHOTO: VICENTE DE PAULO

Bebel Gilberto PHOTO: VICENTE DE PAULO

“It’s a wonderful thing. I feel so blessed and lucky that music takes me all over the world,” says Mendes by phone recently from Los Angeles. “I can play for different cultures and different people. It’s just a wonderful thing. Music is such a universal language. It’s a wonderful feeling to be doing what I do.”

On Friday, Oct. 18, Mendes will bring his familiar bossa nova/samba and distinctive pop instrumentation to Boston audiences as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston’s program, “Sérgio Mendes & Bebel Gilberto: The 60th Anniversary of Bossa Nova.” The concert will take place at the Berklee Performance Center at 8 p.m. The performance marks the Celebrity Series debut for both Mendes and
vocalist Gilberto.

Gilberto is the daughter of João Gilberto, who’s often referred to as the “father of bossa nova.” The younger Gilberto made her Carnegie Hall debut at age 9 on a bossa nova program with her mother, Brazilian singer and composer Miúcha, and saxophonist Stan Getz. Touring with Gilberto offers Mendes the opportunity to celebrate the daughter of a man that was so important to ushering in the internationally-known Brazilian musical style.

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The album “Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66” launched Mendes’ career internationally with the cover of Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada.” It was the first time that a song sung entirely in Portuguese hit Billboard’s Pop chart in the U.S., and quickly became Mendes’ signature song.

Over the years, Mendes has experimented with new sounds and has worked with artists and musicians from a range of backgrounds and cultures, from his mentor and friend Antônio Carlos Jobim, to Frank Sinatra, Cannonball Adderly, Stevie Wonder, Janelle Monáe and The Black Eyed Peas.

In 2006, Mendes collaborated with The Black Eyed Peas and will.i.am in an updated version of “Mas Que Nada.” “They sat in the studio together and started creating sounds and reviewing songs that Mendes had recorded years before. “It was a wonderful creative experience,” says Mendes. “When we get together with a musician from a different generation, we’re pretty much open to ideas. It’s a great conversation. We try this, we try that. By the end of the song, we’re both very happy about that experience.”

The Brazilian pianist and singer has recorded more than 35 albums during his career, but it wasn’t until 1992 that he was awarded his first Grammy for Best World Album for “Brasileiro.”

In 2012, he earned his first Oscar nomination for the single “Real In Rio” from the animated 3-D feature film “Rio.” And, in 2014, he contributed five songs to the “Rio 2” soundtrack, which he also executive-produced.

Up next for Mendes will be the February 2020 release of the documentary “Sergio Mendes In the Key of Joy” from director John Scheinfeld (“Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary”), which chronicles his musical journey. He will also be promoting a new album and tour next year.

Mendes and his band have been engaging with audiences in a musical conversation that has spanned 50 years. “It’s a great privilege to do what we do,” says Mendes.

Tickets for the Oct. 18 show start at $45 and are available online at www.celebrityseries.org, by calling (617) 482-6661 Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or in person at the Berklee Performance Center box office, 136 Massachusetts Ave., Boston.

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