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World Music CD Reviews Greater Latin America

Sergio Mendes

By Tom Orr
Published August 21, 2008

Encanto
Concord Records/Starbucks Entertainment

Longtime Brazilian star Sergio Mendes has often had one foot in the mainstream, and such is the case with his latest album. Nonetheless, Encanto is a profound improvement over the pop and hip-hop crossover confection of 2006’s Timeless, which almost killed the Brazilian flavors entirely. Mendes is still reaching for the commercial crowd, but this time he apparently remembered that bossa nova, samba and jazz are nothing to sneer at. Even though the likes of Fergie, will.i.am and Natalie Cole are on hand, the whole thing keeps its dominant foot in Brazil and allows for vital chip-ins from such compatriots as Carlinhos Brown and newcomer Vanessa da Mata. It does merit mention that most of the songs here, like the Herb Alpert/Lani Hall-assisted “Dreamer,” possess an easygoing charm that’s quite enticing. This might be neither the best Brazilian music out there nor the best that Sergio Mendes has to offer, but it’s certainly a pleasant earful.