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About Sergio Mielniczenko

The steady move from Ipanema Mielniczenko travels a wide path through Brazilian music, with an audience following.

By Lynell George, Times Staff Writer

If not for Sergio Mielniczenko, the world of Brazilian music, to L.A.'s ears, might very well have been summed up in one sweet, albeit Muzak-worn samba:Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto's beguiling 1964 recording "The Girl From Ipanema."That transformation has been no small thing, but Mielniczenko has made it look like nothing more than a sly chord progression.For nearly three decades, Mielniczenko has performed yeoman work as DJ, emcee, curator and general, all-around tastemaker, spreading the word of the breadth of Brazilian music.

Over the years, through a group of weekly radio shows —"The Brazilian Hour," the now defunct "Sounds of Brazil" and "The Global Village" — on KXLU-FM, KPFK-FM and beamed by satellite, he has presented, in his precise and placid, Portuguese-accented English, the best of samba, bossa nova, música popular Brasileira, Brazilian jazz.More importantly, however, he has coaxed L.A.'s listening audience around unexpected corners -- and through regions and rituals and artists who fall off well-trammeled paths of say bossa nova or jazz samba. As these things go, he is more than a bit of a ubiquitous dignitary, floating from festivals to tucked-away clubs to living room jam sessions.

When renowned Brazilian pop artist Caetano Veloso arrived in Los Angeles to perform for the first time in 1997, Mielniczenko was there to greet him. When the notoriously taciturn João Gilberto touched down last summer for his first L.A. performance in more than 30 years, he may have been testy with the Hollywood Bowl crowd, but he cleared time for Mielniczenko to visit with him backstage."It's just how we are," he says, with a wave of the hand, "we Brazilians like to become friends in a half-hour," Sitting in his CD-lined studio-office at the Brazilian Consulate, where he also works as part of its cultural sector, Mielniczenko is making lists. The phone rings nonstop. The greeting, he purrs in Portuguese, "Oi! Como vai?" Assistants and secretaries buzz in with letters to sign, and there are messages to return, meetings pending.

..Lynell George, Times Staff Writer