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Jonas Brothers

Music From the 3D Concert Experience


Review: 2 1/2 stars (Out of 4)

Open the booklet tucked inside the new Jo Bros live disc, and you'll see the band -- the three brothers themselves, plus two unidentified, and extremely lucky, "ancillary musician dudes" -- set up on the grass near a body of water in the middle of what looks like Central Park in New York City. Grand piano and all. I wonder how much it cost to move all that gear down to the waterside, just for a photo-op depicting the Bros as, I dunno, pop star nature lovers or something? Probably more than most starving artists get for signing their first record deal. No worries, though. Disney's picking up the bill.

Already more an industry unto themselves than a mere band, the Jonas lads hit the big screen today with their first feature film, a concert documentary shot in 3D. Bro-mania is in full swing. Interestingly, on a musical level, the Jonas Brothers aren't bad. Sure, they're about as deep as the Partridge Family and as meaningful as a Frankie and Annette beach party film. But these boys can craft a big hook, and their vague philosophy of positivity -- scan song titles like "Hold On," "Love Is on its Way," "This Is Me" and, er, "Live to Party" -- has melded to safe-as-milk songcraft to forge a deep connection between the band and its teens, 'tweens and kids fan base.

In "Concert," the Brothers essentially re-create their studio recordings in a flawless manner, with the excitement factor jacked up a few notches due to the hordes of screaming girls who would love to have Joe Jonas hold their hand in the hallway between classes.

Opening with the unfortunately irony-free "That's Just the Way We Roll," and then, um, rolling through a flawless set that includes cameos from Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift, "The 3D Concert Experience" does just what it's supposed to do: act as a memento for folks who made it to a date on the band's recent world tour -- and as a consolation prize to those who didn't.

-- Jeff Miers


>Jazz and R&B

Various Artists

Hommage a Nesuhi: Atlantic Jazz -- A 60th Anniversary Collection

[Rhino Handmade, limited edition]

Review: 4 stars (Out of 4)

"Nesuhi Ertegun was the poet of the record industry," says Sue Mingus, widow of Charles Mingus. He was, in her estimation, "one of the most cultured, sophisticated and generous men" ever employed in a business of buccaneers, goniffs and worse. It is one of the international cultural triumphs of America that Nesuhi Ertegun is one of that "industry's" primal figures.

That description perfectly fits Ertegun (1917-1989), the younger brother of the far more renowned and hosannaed Ahmet Ertegun. The Ertegun brothers were aristocrats born in Turkey, moved to Washington with their ambassador father in the '30s and, as the patriarchs of Atlantic Records, became, without question, the most important figures in recording the greatest music of black America. Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler put the label together out of love and phenomenal instincts, but it was Nesuhi who came aboard in 1955 to put Atlantic in the LP business, to handle the label's jazz recording and to give the label some of his own taste and elegance. (He was, privately, one of the more notable collectors of surrealist art.)

Here is a sumptuous and gorgeous five-disc set that is about 20 years overdue -- a tribute to the OTHER Ertegun brother, the one whom Michael Cuscuna describes in the wonderful (and stunningly illustrated) notes to this box as "the very model of the musician's A&R man, whose work will endure for the ages."

Except that it's at least two discs too short, this is almost "the very model" of a box set honoring the recording executive whose relationships with everyone from Ray Charles and LaVern Baker and Mose Allison to the Modern Jazz Quartet, Jimmy Giuffre and Ornette Coleman gave American jazz some of its greatest music. A packet of Lee Friedlander's musician photographs gives it a special beauty.

Everything on this set is extraordinary; more than half is classic American music by any possible definition (for instance, John Coltrane's "My Favorite Things" and "Giant Steps," Ray Charles' "Hard Times" and Charles Mingus' "Hog Callin' Blues"). If it has any flaw at all, it's that it wound up being a memorial to a second person: Joel Dorn, who lovingly put the package together just before his death but whose earthier taste didn't begin to have the elegance or intellectual solidity Ertegun's did. Hence, you won't finy any Lennie Tristano here (the solo piano Tristano on Atlantic was amazing); nor will you find the Jimmy Giuffre three or any music from the more stunning John Lewis solo projects (including his brass choir version of "The Golden Striker") that, as much as anything did, paved the way for the kind of music made famous by ECM.

Nor did Nesuhi only record with jazz artists. When, for instance, he got Baker to tackle the Bessie Smith songbook, the results were startling and ever-fresh.

A lot is missing here. As I said, at least a couple more discs were warranted to give a full sense of exactly how irreplaceable Nesuhi Ertegun is. As it is, though, it is one of the record boxes of the year -- very much worth the money and the search, even in a terrible era of economic privation.

-- Jeff Simon



Shemekia Copeland

Never Going Back


Review: 3 stars

With a voice the size of a massive Memphis roadhouse, a serious blues pedigree represented by father Johnny Copeland, and a small but guaranteed audience on the country-wide blues circuit, Shemekia Copeland could've spent the remainder of her still-new career belting out fiery, if generic, blues-rock hybrids and done quite well, thank you. Already a buzz-worthy artist by the time she released her debut album at age 19, Copeland could've easily stayed within the modern idiom's rather strict confines and never rocked the boat. With "Never Going Back," however, she has burst into the gin joint with both guns blazing, infused her songs with a heretofore absent topicality, surrounded herself with a diverse cast of musicians from both within and without the blues world and come up with an album that pushes the contemporary blues envelope considerably.
Copeland was apparently never told about the three things you're not supposed to bring up at the dinner table, or sing about -- religion, politics and sex -- because "Never Going Back" reveals a woman eager to get down to business on all three fronts. "Sounds Like the Devil" is a sultry, strutting blues rocker with a Joan Osborne-ish edge, during which Copeland calls out organized religion on the hypocrisy front. "Dirty Water" lambastes corrupt political types and laments a "business as usual" tendency that leaves the poor out in the cold and invites an ever-shrinking elite group inside. "Big Brand New Religion" and "Never Going Back to Memphis" prove that Copeland and producer/guitarist Oliver Wood are intent on pushing the blues away from its generic, middle-of-the-road, beer-commercial state and toward a new fusion that envelops country, rock and elements of jazz. When Tom Waits' guitarist Marc Ribot shows up to spray his avant-garde blues licks all over the latter, the effect offers startling counterpoint to Copeland's whiskey-throated phrasing and massive tone.

A radically reworked, jazz-informed take on Joni Mitchell's "Black Crow" -- with Chris Wood and John Medeski of Medeski Martin & Wood lending some smokiness to the proceedings -- is the most striking track on the album. But with "Never Going Back," Copeland has grown into something modern blues has been lacking for a good while: a smart, interesting and incisive songwriter.

-- J.M.

Shemekia Copeland plays the Tralf on April 24.

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