Sergio Mendes certainly knows how to fine-tune an idea. The alternately phenomenal, tolerable and impossible Will.I.Am’s pop aspirations permeate their second collaboration with less intrusion and more beautiful infusion, excelling where they stalled last time.
Since their previous star-studded album, Timeless, didn’t exactly equal the sum of its very special parts, Mendes focuses more on the bossa nova tradition than the hip-hop mixture Will.I.Am shaped. Ledisi’s Waters Of March joyously jiggles forward with a message of survival and struggle. Natalie Cole elegantly blesses the proceedings with a pleasant whimsy that is all too rare in contemporary music; her kaleidoscopic tone is haunting. Herb Alpert blows clouds of comfort into the gentle Dreamer, which could have been more ethereal but is no less kind to the mind than anything else on this energized journey.
This album is certainly more Timeless than Mendes’s last outing. It’s the sound of summertime sunshine.
Sergio Mendes plays the Danforth Music Hall Saturday (June 28).