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The Curiosity of Sergio Mendes

The Brazilian icon discusses longevity, relevancy and future releases

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    The Curiosity of Sergio Mendes
    Courtesy of Sergio Mendes
    Sergio Mendes plays Embarcadero Marina Park South on Sunday, Aug. 6.

    Sergio Mendes’ musical influence covers over five decades. The pianist and composer of bossanova and Latin jazz has released 39 albums, and he's currently working on his 40th. The 76-year-old Brazilian icon doesn’t let his age get in the way of touring or creating new music.

    Mendes spoke with me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles, where he has been a resident for 55 years now. 

    “It’s a good place to return to,” Mendes said. “You know, we travel a lot all over the world. I like the weather and it’s where I got started at A&M Records. The music and the movies, I like it. There is no perfect city.”

    I didn’t think to ask Mendes about inheriting the Chargers …

    “I’m looking forward to our show in San Diego,” Mendes continued. “I love outdoor concerts! We’re going to do the show and come back ... We have touring next week, and I’m making a new record and a documentary.”

    So what keeps someone from going stale and retiring after so many years?

    “You know, I think it’s my curiosity -- I like to learn. I like to try different things in music, and I like traveling to new places. So, I think the curiosity is very important. You know, I like to play with different musicians,” he said.

    Over the years, Mendes has worked with John Legend, Carlinhos Brown and will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas.

    “There are many people I love out there. I don’t have any names that come to mind. There is some interesting music out there,” he said when I asked if any recent artists have been inspiring him.

    I suggested Justin Bieber.

    “[Laughing] Well that’s not really quite what I do. You know, I like songwriters like Stevie Wonder very much. Lady Gaga is a very interesting artist -- she’s a great singer. She’s a great musician and very open-minded, so I would say she is very interesting as far as a new artist.”

    So what about his roots in Brazil? After 55 years in the city of angels, does Mendes have any thoughts about moving back?

    “I cannot predict the future. You know, I’m happy. I go to Brazil at least twice a year. We usually spend Christmas in Brazil,” he said.

    I told Mendes to take me with him next time he goes back to Brazil. He seemed open to the idea, of course.

    “[Laughing] Okay! Thank you so much for calling.”

    I will take that as a maybe.

    Sergio Mendes plays Aug. 6 at the Embarcadero Marina Park South with the San Diego Symphony. Get tickets to the Bayside Summer Nights concert here

    Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.