One common thread weaves throughout the staggeringly diverse tapestry of music that producer, composer, keyboardist and vocalist Sergio Mendes has created over his remarkable six-decade career: the spirit of joy.
From his pioneering contributions to the foundations of bossa nova alongside the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, through the era-defining Latin-pop sound of his iconic group Brasil ’66; his scintillating collaborations with jazz legends like Cannonball Addereley and Herbie Mann to his chart-topping adult contemporary smash “Never Gonna Let You Go;” on through his 21st-century reinvention with the Black-Eyed Peas and John Legend or his Oscar-nominated theme song from the animated hit Rio: an infectious spirit of joy pervades everything Mendes has ushered into the ears of listeners.
The Brazilian legend’s new album is no exception. On In the Key of Joy, due out February 28, 2020 from Concord Records, Mendes looks back the only way he knows how – by once again moving forward. Released to coincide with a spectacular new documentary on his life by acclaimed filmmaker John Scheinfeld (Chasing Trane, Who Is Harry Nilsson?), In the Key of Joy melds the classic Brazilian, jazz and pop sounds that have long characterized Mendes’ music with stunningly contemporary inspirations that make the album sound at once utterly timeless and wholly of the moment.
As he has throughout his musical life, Mendes thrives on collaboration on In the Key of Joy. The album brings together fellow Brazilian legends with modern-day hitmakers and young rising stars, bringing familiar voices and fresh life to a set of new original songs penned by Mendes and his collaborators. Guests on the album include Common, Hermeto Pascoal, Joe Pizzulo, Cali y El Dandee, Buddy, Sugar Joans, João Donato, Sheléa and Mendes’ wife and longtime singer, Gracinha Leporace.
“This album is all about joy and celebration,” Mendes says. “I’m very curious, and I love to work with different people from different cultures, different countries, different generations and different styles.”
To accompany the documentary’s wide-angle perspective on Mendes’ sweeping history, the Deluxe Edition of In the Key of Joy includes the soundtrack to the film, a career-spanning overview that encompasses the greatest moments from Mendes’ musical life. From the unforgettable Brasil ’66 classic “Mas Que Nada” to Burt Bacharach’s “The Look of Love,” which Mendes memorably performed on the 1968 Academy Awards telecast; collaborations with will.i.am and the dazzling, soulful “Never Gonna Let You Go,” the disc offers an essential primer on Mendes’ ability to place his indelible imprint on multiple styles of music across the decades.
While he’s never been interested in living in the past, the experience of making the documentary and the 60thanniversary of the bossa nova gave Mendes an excuse to look back and take in the scope of his accomplishments. “I’ve been very blessed to have had such a long career,” he says sincerely. “There’s an English word that I love and that I use a lot, which is ‘serendipity.’ I’ve been fortunate to have so many beautiful encounters in my life.”
In the Key of Joy provided the opportunity to make some new encounters as well as reunite with old friends. The album was recorded between Mendes’ native Brazil and his adopted home of California, one more way in which he bridges past and present in an eclectic harmony. “There are some sounds that you can only get down in Brazil, that amazing energy, that massive rhythmical wave that you hear underneath everything,” he says. “Then I have all of my wonderful partners and such amazing musicians in Los Angeles, along with all of my special guests. It’s the best of both worlds.”