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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Summer is almost here and the sound of Brazilian musician Sergio Mendes has been a soundtrack to the season for generations of listeners. His takes on Burt Bacharach and the Beatles started the party in the 1960s.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified woman: (Singing) See the sun going down and the eyes in his head. See the world, spinning round...

HANSEN: After some four decades of music making, Sergio Mendes entered a period of semi-retirement, until 2006. Impresario producer will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas coaxed him back into the studio for the album, "Timeless." Since then, he's toured and recorded with an assortment of guest stars, from Herb Albert to Zap Mama. This summer, there is a new Sergio Mendes CD called "Bom Tempo."

(Soundbite of song, "Maracatu")

Ms. GRACINHA LEPORACE (Singer): (Singing in Portuguese)

HANSEN: This new recording updates some of his repertoire, and he invited artists from Brazil to join him in the studio. Sergio Mendes is in our studio at NPR West. Welcome to the program, sir.

Mr. SERGIO MENDES (Producer, Musician): Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: A real pleasure to talk to you. We're listening to something off the new CD. It's called "Maracatu (Nation of Love)." Your wife is singing, Gracinha Leporace - I hope I got that right.

Mr. MENDES: Pretty close.

HANSEN: And Gracinha Leporace and Seu Jorge.

Mr. MENDES: Yes.

HANSEN: What does Maracatu mean?

Mr. MENDES: Maracatu is written from Brazil from the northern part of Brazil, specifically from Recife (unintelligible). And it's a very nice different beat than you hear in some other rhythms from Brazil. We have the samba from Rio, we have the achere(ph) from Bahia. The maracatu's typical of Recife.

(Soundbite of song, "Maracatu")

Ms. LEPORACE: (Singing in Portuguese)

HANSEN: Why did you want this song to be part of this recording? What's it all about?

Mr. MENDES: Okay. This song, "Maracatu (Nation of Love)," was written by my music teacher. His name is Moises Santos(ph). So, I learned this song many, many years ago when I was 17 years old, taking music lessons with him in Rio de Janeiro. And I think the idea of having Seu Jorge, which is a new upcoming star in Brazil, and Gracinha, my wife, doing the duet, just a perfect extra for this song.

HANSEN: It's beautiful and there is something about listening to it that just feels very warm and comforting.

Mr. MENDES: Bom tempo.

HANSEN: Ah, good times, yes?

Mr. MENDES: Good time, good weather, yes.

HANSEN: Yeah. Everything that's associated with Brazil and everything that we associate with our North American summers.

Mr. MENDES: That's right.

HANSEN: You are a master at covering some of the great songwriters, and there's one on this, too. Stevie Wonder wrote a song, "The Real Thing." This was a hit for you in the 1970s.

Mr. MENDES: He wrote that song for me in 1977. He wanted to sing a song in Portuguese, so he asked me to write some lyrics for him, which I did. And then he called me, said I got a song for you. We went to the studio - it was Brazil '77 - and we recorded this song.

(Soundbite of song, "The Real Thing")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Looking forward to seeing you, thought it'd been such a long, long time. Looking forward to feeling your, love has been so heavy on my mind, on my mind, all the time, on my mind.

Mr. MENDES: It's the only non-Brazilian song on this album, but it's such a beautiful song. It's such a great melody. So, I decided to redo it again 2010 in a contemporary way.

HANSEN: What did you want to do to it now and then what do you mean by make it more contemporary?

Mr. MENDES: Well, whenever recording an album, the first thing is repertoire -songs - what am I going to do? So, I may do a song that I never did before, like "Maracatu (Nation of Love)," or I want to get a song that I did like "Mar que Nada(ph)" and reinterpret this song in a different way. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I cannot do it. That's, for me, an interesting thing because it's very challenging, number one. Musically, it's very interesting and it's such great songs.

And so I feel there's a whole new generation that will hear those songs if you present it in a contemporary way.

(Soundbite of song, "The Real Thing")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Had a chance to look forward, to (unintelligible) the love and the dream. But I can't be happy with, fantasizing (unintelligible) the real thing, the real thing, not a dream, but the real thing. There are no words that can express the way I feel today...

Mr. MENDES: So, that's a great thing. It shows the power of the song, which for me is the most important thing.

HANSEN: We're talking with Grammy-winning musician Sergio Mendes about his latest CD, "Bom Tempo."

You do have a knack of choosing songs. I'm thinking of one now, "You and I," an upbeat song by Carlinhos Brown - he also sings on the track.

(Soundbite of song, "You and I")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Baby, I love you.

Mr. CARLINHOS BROWN (Musician): (Singing) You and me, to be or not to be, you cross the seven seas, you make my life so sweet...

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) You and I will make a great surprise, bring the stars alive, to shine in paradise. I love you, baby. Our love is true. Baby, our love is true.

HANSEN: What do you like about his songs and why did you want to include this one on the CD?

Mr. MENDES: Carlinhos is a great musician, percussionist. He's really spontaneous - from Bahia. And he worked with me on several albums. He's a great songwriter, so I invited him to come to L.A. And he played me that song that he wrote it. And the song just, again, felt great and we did its a new song and we decided to record it.

HANSEN: I should tell people that there are actually two new CDs. I mean, one is Sergio Mendes "Bom Tempo," and the other is Sergio Mendes "Bom Tempo Brasil: Remixed." And this is, the remixed one, you got some DJs in and they remixed it for the dance floor.

Mr. MENDES: That's correct.

HANSEN: Oh, so what is it? I mean, is it two-for-one?

Mr. MENDES: It's two CDs.

HANSEN: Yeah, I know, I know.

Mr. MENDES: You know it's two CDs, yeah.

HANSEN: You're covering the waterfront here.

Mr. MENDES: Well, when I finished the album, you know, realize that this album was very danceable and it's, like you said, up-tempo, so for sunny(ph). So, I said, why don't we get the big DJs from the world to do remixes on those songs, because that's another way to present the song in the clubs. I have a 23-year-old son that goes to the clubs here in L.A. every weekend.

So, he helped me a lot finding the young guys, you know, the young mixers. And it was an interesting thing because they put their own spin on the song. So, I think it gives the song a second exposure.

HANSEN: Right.

Mr. MENDES: Different exposure to a kid that will be interesting here because now he can dance to it.

HANSEN: Yeah. Paul Oakenfold, his club mix, he does one of "Emorio."

(Soundbite of song, "Emorio")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing in Portuguese)

Mr. MENDES: Love this song.

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. MENDES: It's Gilberto Gil song. See, I recorded a lot of those Afro-Brazilian chants, so "Emorio" was written by Gilberto Gil and Joao Donato, my friends. And I've recorded "Emorio" many years ago - Brazil '66, I think. And, again, you know, it came to my mind. I said, wow, I want to do that song again. Because that's the, you know, the power of the song. And it's a very interesting song and we did it totally different.

I mean, structurally speaking and harmonically. And it just felt great the way we were able to reintroduce the song in a totally different way.

HANSEN: You're going to celebrate your 70th birthday next year. I find this really hard to believe but you are.

Mr. MENDES: Well...

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. MENDES: ...me too.

HANSEN: We all grow old, right?

Mr. MENDES: That's right.

HANSEN: Yeah. Is there anything you want to do that you haven't done yet?

Mr. MENDES: As far as what?

HANSEN: Oh, you tell me.

Mr. MENDES: I don't know. I mean...

HANSEN: Music probably, considering the context of our conversation.

Mr. MENDES: Well, I love what I do and the traveling part is great. And having, for instance, my wife singing in the band is wonderful...

HANSEN: Yeah.

Mr. MENDES: ...traveling with my family and I'm enjoying all these years. I've been lucky to have such a long career and I'm enjoying every day. Like I told you, it's still very lucky that I'm playing music and there's people out there that want to hear.

HANSEN: Right. You'll have to tell everybody to bring their dancing shoes, though.

Mr. MENDES: That's right.

HANSEN: Sergio Mendes, his latest recordings on the Concord Label are "Bom Tempo" and "Bom Tempo Brasil." He joined us from NPR West. Thank you so much.

Mr. MENDES: My pleasure.

(Soundbite of song, "Emorio")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Let me see you shake it...

HANSEN: To hear full songs from "Bom Tempo," visit NPRMusic.org.

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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