On his OKeh debut, Sergio Mendes uses the same large, star-studded formula he employed on 2006's Timeless, 2008's Encanto, and 2010's Bom Tempo, but goes a few steps further by engaging new material in co-writes with a number of his collaborators. Produced by Mendes (who plays piano in fine form throughout), and recorded in Los Angeles, Bahia, and Salvador, the set features a number of brand new songs rather than reimaginings of his own hits or bossa nova's most legendary songs done in contemporary style. There are a lot more Brazilian guests this time out, but that is not to say there isn't a fair share of American star power on the date: John Legend's vocal graces the shimmering 21st century bossa arrangement on "Don't Say Goodbye." Will.i.am. makes a return appearance to collaborate with Mendes (and guest vocalist Cody Wise) on the funky, Caribbean electro "My My My Love." Janelle Monae co-wrote "Visions of You" and delivers an excellent lead vocal in this classy, jazzy, Bahia-tinged pop song. The Brazilian artists, however, steal the show. For starters, there are a few legends in the mix: Seu Jorge and his trademark baritone help to deliver a fine cover of Moacir Santos' immortal "Sou Eu"; Milton Nascimento sings his own MPB classic "Olha a Rua," accompanied by Mendes' sparkling piano, a joyous backing chorus, handclaps, Alphonso Johnson's fluid bassline, Paul Jackson, Jr.'s guitars, and a stack of percussion instruments, and the renowned Gracinha Leporace (and Mendes' wife) delivers "When I Fall in Love," a lovely, summery tune co-written by Toninho Horta, Brenda Russell, and Tatta Spalla. Scott Mayo's flutes offer a particular delight. Latin Grammy-nominated (twice) vocalist and songwriter Maria Gadú delivers "Meu Rio," her dramatic co-write with Mendes. The elegant meld of electric piano, choral backing vocals, acoustic guitars, percussion, and cello expand on her already emotive performance -- one of the finest on the album. Ana Carolina delivers Guinga's beautiful ballad "Atlantica" with his accompaniment on guitar and her and Mike Mutti's harmonica gently emphasizing the vocals. The set is bookended with two joyous contributions from frequent collaborator Carlinhos Brown. Opener "Simbora" is a fat, slick samba done in urban pop style, while the closer is the big, orchestral funky dance hit, "One Nation," which was issued on the One Love, One Rhythm: The 2014 FIFA World Cup Official Album. These two tracks heartily underscore what the album reveals in spades: that Mendes proves, once again, that contemporary pop and Brazilian musical tradition come together seamlessly under his command even as they evolve.
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek