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Review: Smooth grooves rule on Herb Alpert's 'Human Nature'

Why mess with success?

Pop-jazz trumpeter Herb Alpert has sold records by the truckload since the 1960s, and if his easy-listening style has become a byword for elevator music, that doesn't make it any less influential.

The 81-year-old founder of the Tijuana Brass returns with an album — his fourth in three years — featuring original compositions alongside tracks by songwriters including Burt Bacharach, seasoned with a light sprinkling of electronic dance music.

Alpert remains a skilled bandleader and arranger. The title track, made famous by Michael Jackson, entirely suits the treatment it gets here: relaxed and largely instrumental, with a Latin groove and a bubbling electronic bassline. The same is true of the lighter-than-air arrangement of Bacharach and Hal David's "Alfie."

The main new element is the strand of electronica underlying Alpert's languid trumpet. It's hardly a radical departure to Alpert's sound, but a skittering electro beat propels Bacharach's "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and Alpert's composition "Incognito."

Best of the lot is the closing track, "Doodles," a perky, hip-moving dance tune.

Times change, but Herb Alpert remains resolutely true to himself. And you don't sound this laid-back without working extremely hard.

Music Review: Bon Iver delivers offbeat, self-conscious art

Some weirdness pervades the release of "22, A Million," the third album by Bon Iver — symbols, images and liner notes that feel like they're fraught with meaning. Some of it might be nonsense.

But then there's the music.

An adventurous journey in sound, "22, A Million" is never dull. Altered voices, the familiar falsetto of Bon Iver's mastermind, Justin Vernon, and acoustic and electronic shape-shifting stretch the conventional boundaries of song.

The album "is part love letter, part final resting place of two decades of searching for self-understanding like a religion," we are told. "If 'Bon Iver, Bon Iver' built a habitat rooted in physical spaces, then '22, A Million' is the letting go of that attachment to a place."

See, that might be nonsense; it's at least self-consciously artsy. So it's tempting to dismiss this as an ultimately meaningless collection of look-at-me life themes for hipsters.

But then you give the music another listen.

There are extraordinary moments of sound on this album, with just enough melody to sustain them. A prime example, a cut called "8(Circle)" — the title itself is a symbol — builds from a heartbeat pulse through vaguely achy lyrics on a tidal swell to a spirited crescendo.

Pretensions notwithstanding, it is beautiful.

Will Bon Iver's growing body of sonic experimentation lose its charm and sound dated, like Moby, when the shine wears off?

We may not know for a while — but it hasn't happened yet.

Story of Ugandan chess player inspires Alicia Keys song

Alicia Keys has always been a supporter of female empowerment, so when the singer watched the new film "Queen of Katwe" and saw its female lead, Phiona Mutesi, win best male chess player, she was overjoyed.

"That was like so good and she played against all these boys because there wasn't anybody else she could play against, and she was the best of all," Keys said. "I think that was really, really powerful."

It was one of the many scenes in the film starring Lupita Nyong'O that inspired the piano-playing star to write "Back to Life," a song about hope and perseverance that plays at the movie's end.

"As far as we feel like we've come — and as far as we've come, we definitely have made strides forward — it's such an important reminder to know that when given opportunity, young people, especially girls, really flourish," Keys said in an interview Wednesday. "It's just that simple."

"Queen of Katwe," which opened last week, stars Madina Nalwanga as a gifted chess player from the Katwe slums in Kampala, Uganda, who reaches new heights in the international chess world. Nyong'O plays the role of her mother and David Oyelowo is her optimistic and passionate chess coach. The true story was directed by Mira Nair.

Keys said it was emotional watching the film, which highlights Uganda, a place Keys has visited and done charity work with through her Keep a Child Alive organization.

"All over the world, and even in all of our backyards, there's just so many incredible stories ... (and) it's great to be a part of continuing to just evolve and diversify the stories that we see and hear," she said. "It's personal to me in the way that I can identify with Phiona finding her way, finding herself. When I say 'Back to Life,' it's like finding your greatest (self), finding what makes you alive. I feel like I myself am learning that more and more every day."

Keys said she's hoping "Back to Life" will satisfy fans who are waiting for her next album, though it could drop any day.

"This is definitely like the best music I've made in my life yet ... because it's like the most vulnerable, most urgent ... it just has such a good vibe to it," said Keys, who has won 15 Grammys and released five studio albums. "It's really kind of this dope cross between art, activism, what's going on in the world, how it makes us feel, who we are; it's personal, it's relatable, it's musical."

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Online:

http://www.aliciakeys.com/home/

http://www.queenofkatwe.com/

Springsteen signs Philadelphia fifth-grader's absence note

A Philadelphia fifth-grader ditched school for the chance to meet rock legend Bruce Springsteen and "The Boss" gladly played along by signing the boy's absence excuse note.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (http://bit.ly/2dzlNOW ) that Michael Fenerty attended a meet-and-greet with the New Jersey native Thursday at the Free Library of Philadelphia with his dad.

Springsteen was in town for a book signing to promote his new autobiography, "Born to Run."

Wanting to follow school procedure, the boy's father brought along a pre-typed note that Springsteen signed to excuse his son's absence.

Springsteen told the boy that he would have to read the note first because that's how he got in trouble with his first contract.

The school's principal only received a photocopy of the note.

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Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.inquirer.com

US rapper being tried for sexual abuse in Austria

An Austrian court has begun trying U.S. rapper Freddie Gibbs on charges of sexual abuse.

He was indicted for allegedly exploiting the dazed state of a 17-year old woman whose drinks were possibly spiked to sexually abuse her after a nightclub appearance by Gibbs last year.

Gibbs, whose real name is Fredrick Tipton, denies the accusations.

Absent from the court in Vienna Friday was a bodyguard sought for alleged sexual abuse of a 16-year old woman who had accompanied the 17-year old to Gibbs' hotel. He is believed to be somewhere in the United States.

Day 2 of sentence hearing for promoter in $200 million fraud

It's day two in Miami federal court for the sentencing hearing of a former concert promoter who prosecutors say defrauded thousands of investors out of $200 million.

Prosecutors want a federal judge on Friday to impose a sentence of more than 17 years behind bars for 73-year-old Jack Utsick, who pleaded guilty to mail fraud in June. They say Utsick fleeced nearly 3,000 investors by hiding a decade of losses by Worldwide Entertainment Inc. and promising double-digit returns.

Worldwide promoted tours by numerous top-level acts including the Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac and David Bowie. Utsick's attorney says he never intended to defraud investors and hoped to turn the company's fortunes around.

Utsick is asking for a lenient sentence of about six years. He was extradited from Brazil in 2014.

Family band Flatt Lonesome wins 3 at Bluegrass Awards

Family band Flatt Lonesome won three awards at the International Bluegrass Music Awards while the Earls of Leicester were named entertainer of the year for the second consecutive year.

The awards were given out Thursday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Flatt Lonesome, which includes siblings Kelsi, Charli and Buddy Robertson, won album of the year for "Runaway Train," song of the year for "You're the One" and vocal group of the year.

Becky Buller took home female vocalist and fiddle player of the year and Danny Paisley was awarded male vocalist. Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen were named instrumental group of the year.

New inductees to the Bluegrass Hall of Fame include Clarence White and the founders of bluegrass label Rounder Records, Ken Irwin, Marian Leighton Levy and Bill Nowlin.

Pink Floyd alum Roger Waters slams Trump, Mexican president

Former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters lashed out at Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the first of three concerts in Mexico City.

A message projected on the stage behind Waters called Trump an offensive name in Spanish.

Trump has proposed building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Waters told the crowd at a concert Wednesday night that "we don't want a wall that separates us from our sister, our mother earth, or from each other."

Waters also criticized Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, blaming his administration for many of the thousands of people who have gone missing since Mexico's drug war began in 2006.

Waters said: "Mr. President ... Where are they? What happened to them?"

In Prince estate case, blood relation may be unnecessary

A legal wrinkle in Prince's estate case shows you might not have to be a blood relative to inherit some of the late rock superstar's sizable fortune.

No will has surfaced since Prince accidentally overdosed on painkillers in April, so his sister, Tyka Nelson, and five half-siblings are likely to be declared rightful heirs within the next few months.

But the judge also has to decide whether a purported niece and grandniece — plus a purported nephew who came forward this week — should count as heirs even though they may not be blood relatives. That's because in Minnesota, there are circumstances in which someone can be considered a parent based on having a familial relationship with a child, such as informally raising a non-biological child as their own.

"The statutes don't give clear guidance — they really don't," said Susan Link, a Minnesota estate law expert who's following the case closely but isn't involved in it.

The judge will have to sort out a complex interplay between probate and parentage laws that appears to be unique to Minnesota, as well as the complicated family history of Prince and his relatives.

Brianna Nelson, her daughter Victoria Nelson and Corey Simmons all claim descent from the late Duane Nelson Sr., who they say was Prince's half-brother. The case filings suggest that Prince's late father, John L. Nelson, might not have been Duane's biological father, but the three allege that John considered Duane to be his son, and that Prince considered Duane to be his half-brother.

Duane's birth certificate lists John Nelson as his father, and John's obituary listed Duane as his son. Duane, who died in 2011, also served as Prince's security chief for several years before they had a falling out.

Should the court count Duane as a half-sibling, Brianna and Victoria Nelson hope to divide what would have been his share (one-seventh) of the estate, which has been estimated at between $100 million and $300 million altogether.

Already, Carver County District Judge Kevin Eide has said Brianna and Victoria have presented a plausible enough case to proceed and don't need to undergo genetic testing.

"One-seventh of the estate after taxes is still a lot of money," Los Angeles probate attorney Robert Straus said.

If Simmons' claim survives, it would be a three-way split. He says Duane Nelson and his mother, Carolyn Simmons, who isn't Brianna Nelson's mother, met at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Duane left Carolyn when she was five months pregnant and returned to Minnesota, Simmons said. He said his parents' last contact was in 1989, and that he met Brianna and two of Prince's half-sisters for the first time at Duane's funeral.

"His relationship with Brianna Nelson is a happy and affectionate one, in which Brianna Nelson acknowledges him as her brother," Simmons' motion claimed. It also said he attended Prince's family funeral and spent "quality time" there with Brianna and two of Prince's half-sisters he considers his aunts, likely heirs Norrine Nelson and Sharon Nelson.

Little else is known about Simmons. His attorney, Eric Dammeyer, declined to give details, citing privacy concerns.

Lawyers for Brianna and Victoria Nelson argue an extensive revision to the state's probate code 2010 left confusing gaps but that a 2003 Minnesota Supreme Court decision — issued before that revision — supports their claims. Lawyers for Bremer Trust, the special administrator overseeing the estate, have countered that it isn't clear whether that's true.

Eide has asked for more written arguments and set dates for two potential hearings in November.

AP Exclusive: Fonseca sings with Ringo for Colombia's peace

Colombian singer-songwriter Fonseca wrote and recorded a verse in Spanish for a new version of Ringo Starr's peace anthem "Now The Time Has Come," at the request of the ex-Beatle.

He had a single day to do it.

The four-time Latin Grammy winner was contacted Wednesday by Starr's team and put himself to work immediately: The song will be released Friday in honor or the recently reached Colombian peace treaty.

"This has been very exciting. First, getting an invitation from Ringo Starr's people was a surprise," Fonseca said Thursday in an exclusive interview with The Associated Press. "And to see that he also wants to join the peace process in Colombia with a song about hope, as a Colombian and as a musician, this is a privilege."

Fonseca said that on Wednesday, Starr's team sent him the song and asked him to write a verse, preferably in Spanish.

"I sat down, I wrote it, I recorded it in my home's studio and by the afternoon I was sending it to Bruce Sugar, Ringo Starr's long-time producer (and co-author of the song.) I spoke to Bruce over the phone and he told me he loved what he received."

The song was originally created for the United Nation's International Peace Day (Sept. 21.) In his contribution, Fonseca expresses his feelings about the recently signed peace treaty between the government of Colombia and the FARC.

"I talk about so many years dreaming of peace, about the millions that left without a reason, I say that what we are doing is not easy but we do it for those yet to come, for the next generations," the artist said.

The peace treaty puts an end to five decades of conflict. A referendum on the deal is expected to pass Sunday.

Other still-undisclosed artists also contributed to the new release.

Fonseca was recently nominated to the Latin Grammys in the album of the year ("Conexión",) best cumbia/vallenato album ("Homenaje (a la música de Diomedes Díaz)") and best tropical song ("Vine a buscarte") categories. The Latin Grammys will be held on Nov. 17 in Las Vegas.

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Online:

http://www.fonsecaconexion.com/

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Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner

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