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Sergio Mendes feels the hip-hop rhythm

Brazilian music teams up with Black Eyed Peas'
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hooking up hot, young hitmakers with a seasoned veteran has become so common place its become something of an industry gimmick to introduce a new generation to a musical great of years past.

But "Timeless," the result of the musical and personal bond between the Black Eyed Peas' and Brazilian musical great Sergio Mendes, may be the exception to that rule.

The 65-year-old Mendes, best known for his Latin-tinged jazz and bossa nova hits of the 1960s and '70s such as "The Look of Love" and "Fool on the Hill," wasn't even thinking about recording an album until he met will, the brainchild behind the multiplatinum pop/hip-hop hybrid. Mendes was one of will's musical heroes and he lured him out of a musical recording hiatus to appear on the Peas' "Elephunk."

The pair enjoyed working together so much that will decided to produce an album for Mendes, reworking some of his past hits, including "Mais Que Nada," but also infusing the album with new music and, what is more important, high-profile artists. Among those who appear on "Timeless" are Justin Timberlake, John Legend, Erykah Badu, India.Arie and Stevie Wonder.

During a recent chat with Mendes on the patio of his Hollywood Hills home, he talked about the inspiration behind the album, working with will and hopes of a new audience discovering his music.

AP: You hadn't come out with a record in 10 years. Why?

Mendes: I was touring, playing all over the world, in the United States ... but I had no kind of motivation to make a record. I made 32 albums, man! (laughs) You know? Give me a break! It was a long break, 10 years. And then I met will, and said `What? Let's go.' That's the kind of thing that's exciting to me. That was really the motivation to do this. So I felt there was something very unique and bold that I'd like to embrace and I'm glad I did.

AP: Did you ever doubt that you would make another album?

Mendes: In the back of my mind, I thought I'd probably do it, but I have to find a motivation to handle the flavor. I'm a very curious person and I love to learn, so I need that energy with working with somebody who likes the same thing. I thought I would eventually do one but I didn't know when, and I wasn't rushing to do one either.

AP: For this project, you went back to some of your classics _ how does it feel to revisit them?

Mendes: It feels great because it's done in a different way. It's like reintroducing a great song. (It's like) you go back and you play `Night and Day' or if you play `Stardust,' ... and you have somebody young like will with young energy and a whole new different aesthetic as how to put that together, which he did. Not only the arrangement, but the editing and the architecture of the song. How do you present that to a kid, to a young audience that never heard that kind of music? He is a master of that. And for me, it's a show _ wow, that sounds fresh. Because you're playing the song ... but the treatment is different.

AP: Was this a specific attempt to get a younger audience?

Mendes: Just by working with, of course, naturally, his whole fan base would come to listen and say, `What's will doing working with Sergio Mendes?' It feels great because here I am working with him or John Legend or Erykah Badu, and there's my wife singing, my drummer has been with me for 15 years. Getting together and making great music is such a joy, such a pleasure.

AP: A lot of times when there's a collaboration of an icon with younger artists, the mishmash of sounds doesn't always gel. How do you think your album compares to some of the collaborative albums by some of your peers?

Mendes: It was always fresh, and it was always a great exchange between the old and the new. Nothing was forced. The natural process of the two of us getting together out of our own liking of each other, of our own really respect, I think that's what makes the sincerity of the project. It's not a manipulative record company thinking, you know, well, let's put A and B together. This is like two musicians from different generations, different cultures, different countries, getting together and saying, you know what, let's bring our worlds together.