Sergio Mendes: Jazz Meets Samba - November 8

With Eliane Elias, Joe Lovano and Lee Ritenour

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The second annual James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival was in full Bossa Nova-swing on Friday evening, November 8th. The performance "Jazz Meets Samba," featured Latin jazz icon Sérgio Mendes, joined by a stellar lineup including vocalist and pianist Eliane Elias, saxophonist Joe Lovano, guitarist Lee Ritenour, and special guest percussionist Marivaldo Dos Santos. The performance was hosted by Rhonda Hamilton of WBGO, jazz radio station. The audience was treated to a diverse blend of Jazz, Samba, and American and Brazilian pop music.

Elias opened the set with her distinctive musical style, blending her Brazilian roots, alluring voice and impressive instrumental piano. Lovano and Ritenour joined Elias for a wonderful tribute to the music and composers of Elias’ homeland, capturing the cool and alluring spirit of the Bossa Nova. Her vocals and rhythmic piano, blended beautifully with Lovano’s saxophone. She continuously integrated the syncopations of her piano with the rhythm of Ritenour’s guitar. Selections included “So Danco Samba”, “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Desafinado” “Chega de Saudade” , Minha Saudade,” and Jobim’s unforgettable “Água de Beber" ("Water to Drink").

The second set started with a rousing standing ovation for Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated pianist-composer-arranger Mendes. With a gracious smile, Mendes commented that this was his first time performing in New Jersey. The band performed several classic Brazil ’66 tunes with excellent vocals by Gracinha Leporace and Katie Hampton. Selections included“ The Look of Love” and “Fool on the Hill” and Waters of March (“A Stick a Stone”). New material included”The Point” and rap-infused re-recordings of “Agua de Beber” and Mendes’ hit “Mas Que Nada”, with vocals by rapper H2O. Vocalist Hampton and saxophonist-keyboardist Scott Mayo performed a beautiful l duet on “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Sergio Mendes’ sound and style continues to appeal to all generations.

The week-long James Moody Democracy of Jazz Festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, commemorates the legacy of one of Newark’s own, saxophonist, flutist, and composer James Moody. For more information, visit njpac.org.

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Karen Brundage-Johnson, PhD.