Sergio Mendes Timeless

Say what you want about Will.I.Am and his Black Eyed Peas’ pop-tastic new sound, but alone, the man has never been totally discountable behind the boards (remember Lost Change?). His latest project is an effort to bring famed Brazilian bandleader and keyboardist Sergio Mendes, credited with exposing classic Brazilian tunes to a North American audience during the ’60s and early ’70s, into the new millennium. On Timeless, the producer/MC attempts this feat with the help of a slew of a-list amigos — Jill Scott, Q-Tip, John Legend, Justin Timberlake, Black Thought and Stevie Wonder, among others — for an exciting idea on paper he unfortunately can’t seem to make work in practice. Where the album suffers most is in the poor use Will makes of his guests, who often make little impact on their respective tracks. For instance, if you’re going to have Stevie Wonder on your album, he’d better either sing or kill it with the harmonica; here Wonder does neither, instead simply mimicking the song’s melody — sung by Mendes’ wife Gracinha Leporace (who adds a sense of authenticity to nearly every track) — with his harp on "Berinbau/Consolação,” an effort that’s indicative of those given by many of the record’s high profile participants. While Mendes’ adept, rhythmic keys add some requisite swing to the proceedings, his role here is surprisingly limited and not enough to turn around what, in the end, is really just a Brazilian Will.I.Am solo record. (Hyperdub)