Sérgio Mendes – In the Key of Joy


Title: In the Key of Joy
Artist: Sérgio Mendes
Label: Concord
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: February 21, 2020


Several names come to mind when discussing the early progenitors of bossa nova and Latin-pop music, but one individual stands out for his musical contributions. That individual is none other than composer, arranger, vocalist, and pianist extraordinaire Sérgio Mendes. Known for his “infectious spirit of joy” and his style that blends together “classic Brazilian, jazz, and pop sounds,” Mendes’ albums and collaborations have always been at the cutting-edge of Latin music.

In the Key of Joy, Mendes’ newest release which coincides with the documentary on his life by John Scheinfeld, maintains this festive and celebratory sound that has characterized his compositional style. The album features Brazilian musical giants and notable iconic artists such as Hermeto Pascoal, Common, Joe Pizzulo, Cali y El Dandee, Buddy, Sugar Joans, João Donato, and Sheléa, as well as vocal performances by Mendes’ wife, Gracinha Leporacer.

The album takes us from the funk-filled Brazilian pop of “Sabor Do Rio” through the samba-infused tunes “Bora Lá” and “Samba In Heaven,” to the spirited performances on “Muganga” and “This Is It (É Isso), and the savory baião-oriented “Tangara.” A highlight of the album is certainly the reunion of Mendes and vocalist Pizzulo on the bossa nova “Love Came Between Us,” as they evoke the feeling of Mendes’ classic hit “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Mendes expressed that he likes “to get out of my comfort zone and try things that I’ve never done before.” In the Key of Joy is certainly that! A representation of Mendes’ forward-thinking and his interest in unearthing new musical intersections within the spectrum of popular musical genres.

Reviewed by Jamaal Baptiste