The 39th studio album from Sergio Mendes, 2019's In the Key of Joy, is a vibrant production featuring a bevy of guest performers. The album arrived during a period of renewed activity and recognition for the Brazilian pop legend who earned his first Oscar nomination in 2012 for his song "Real in Rio" off the Rio soundtrack, and who has steadily recorded in the 2010s, issuing similarly inspired albums like 2008's Encanto, 2010's Bom Tempo, and 2014's Magic. Along with being a studio album, In the Key of Joy also arrives as a companion piece to director John Scheinfeld's documentary of the same name, detailing Mendes' life and career. As with his most recent albums, In the Key of Joy features a number of collaborations between Mendes and artists from across the musical spectrum, including rapper Common, vocalist Sugar Joans, and singer Shelea Frazier. There are also dynamic pairings with fellow Brazilian icons like guitarist/vocalist Hermeto Pascoal, Mendes' wife and longtime musical partner Gracinha Leporace, and others. Refreshingly, rather than rework his past hits, here Mendes offers newly minted songs that evoke the earthy ebullience and kinetic uplift of his classic '60s and '70s work, while also updating his sound for contemporary listeners. Thankfully, nothing is lost in the process and tracks like "Bora Lá" with singer Rogê and Leporace, "Samba in Heaven" with Joans, and "This Is It (É Isso)" with Pascoal and Leporace, retain all the funky, soulful rhythms and hooky melodies that made Mendes' seminal albums so captivating.
© Matt Collar /TiVo