- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I f you think Sergio Mendes is correct when he says that today’s pop and dance music lacks melody, then consider him the leader of the relief effort. He’ll dole out his remedy to Washingtonians tonight at the 9:30 Club.

With the help of nine other musicians, Mr. Mendes will take concertgoers on what he calls “a musical journey” through his acclaimed 40-plus-year career. For longtime fans, there’ll be plenty of his classic bossa nova tunes — such as those off his breakout album, “Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66,” celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. And for recent converts, Mr. Mendes will inject the show with plenty of edgier (read: hip-hop-infused) cuts off the recently released “Timeless.”

Those who’ve followed the Brazilian performer closely will note that his music has evolved considerably over the decades, most notably with his latest release. His earlier tracks created lush, Latin soundscapes that were — while instrumentally spare — harmonically rich. For example, he recorded his 1966 Billboard-pop-chart blaster, Jorge Ben’s “Mas Que Nada,” with only himself on piano, a bassist, a drummer and two female singers. Mr. Mendes turned both song and sound alike into something of a trademark.

Whether laying down Brazilian songs with Portuguese lyrics or covers of global hits like the Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” Mr. Mendes’ light, loungey touch has served him well. He, like influential colleague Antonio Carlos Jobim, has become one of the most renowned Brazilian musicians in the world.

Mr. Mendes has toured with greats like Frank Sinatra, produced records for Johnny Mathis and others, dropped both gold and platinum albums, and even scooped up a Grammy for 1992’s “Brasileiro.”

The lounge music revival of the 1990s brought renewed attention to Mr. Mendes’ back catalog in the U.S., where his music had long since fallen out of fashion. Then, in 2002, Mr. Mendes received a call asking if he’d be interested in meeting with the hip-hop group the Black Eyed Peas.

“I opened the door,” Mr. Mendes explains, “and [BEP frontman will.i.am] was standing there holding all my old records — all the Brasil ‘66 vinyl stuff. He [said] that my music had influenced him a lot and he grew up in L.A. listening to the sound of my records.”

Mr. Mendes ended up playing piano for a ditty called “Sexy” on the BEP’s breakthrough 2003 disc, “Elephunk.” While the sultry tune was kind of a sleeper, it inspired a full-length project in the same vein: this year’s “Timeless,” which could have easily been called “Reinvention.”

The will.i.am-produced record grows exotic blossoms from the seeds of Mr. Mendes’ classic phrases. It’s a genre-blending disc that melds together hip-hop, neo-soul, samba and bossa nova and features guest performances by luminaries like Stevie Wonder and India.Arie. (In concert, singers and a rapper from Mr. Mendes’ entourage usually take over the guest roles.)

Nominated for three Latin Grammys, “Timeless” comes off as a fun, worldly pop disc that is as much lush and lively as it is gritty and urban. The album’s biggest hit — surprise, surprise — is the opener, a revamp of “Mas Que Nada” that makes the favorite more accessible and dancier for today’s radio listeners.

Was the musicmaker concerned with alienating fans who are less than dazzled by hip-hop sensibilities? “It really didn’t occur to me,” says Mr. Mendes. “To revisit those songs that I’ve played so many times in a different way, it was for me very exciting.”

Feel the excitement for yourself this evening when, Mr. Mendes explains, “We’ll be cooking.”

• • •

Los Angeles-based Quincy Coleman stops in to the Red and the Black (www.redand blackbar.com) on Monday to play her unique brand of highly listenable yet hard-to-pin-down pop. Critics have amassed long strings of adjectives, artists and genres in hopes of describing the singer-songwriter’s work — but Miss Coleman sums it up best; “It’s a cajun country swing.,” she explains. “A sort of ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s mash-up.”

Whatever you call it, her tunes go down as easy as a mint julep. They’re a lovely concoction of her powerful, Linda Ronstadt-esque voice; honest lyrics; sultry yet whimsical musicality; and eclectic instrumentation that can include ukulele, accordion and trumpet.

She’s served listeners two rounds from the studio so far — 2003’s “Also Known as Mary” and this year’s “Come Closer” — and has, in return, received some nice tips. For instance, her songs have been featured in several movies, such as the acclaimed “Crash,” and she recently appeared on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”

Perhaps she learned her knack for performing while growing up; her father is actor Dabney Coleman, mother is model/actress Jean Hale Coleman, and her siblings, Kelly and Randy, are musicians. But she’s not riding their coattails by any means. She’s got her own eclectic sound, and some buzz to go with it.

Miss Coleman plays on Monday with New York indie rockers Teenage Prayers.

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