Billboard Bits: Tom Waits, Torres, Yerba Buena

News on Tom Waits, Torres, Yerba Buena

TomAdamantly anti-commercial artist Tom Waits is contemplating legal action over an ad campaign for GM's Opel car line running in Europe's Scandinavian region that reportedly boasts music and a vocal resembling his own. The singer/songwriter learned of the ads through fans who contacted his record label, Anti-, a division of Epitaph.

"In answer to the many queries I have received: No, I did not do the Opel car commercial currently running on TV in Scandinavia," Waits says in a statement. "I have a long-standing policy against my voice or music being used in commercials and I have lawyers over there investigating my options."

Waits has previously fought several advertisers who have aped his distinctively graveled voice and avant-garde style for commercial purposes. Among past infringers are car manufacturers Audi (Spain) and Lancia (Italy) and snack manufacturer Frito-Lay for a SalsaRio Doritos radio spot in the United States.

"If I stole an Opel, Lancia or Audi, put my name on it and resold it, I'd go to jail," Waits says. "But over there they ask, you say 'no,' and they hire impersonators. They profit from the association and I lose -- time, money, and credibility. What's that about?

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

Juan Pablo Torres, a member of the group Cuban Masters who played alongside legends like Israel "Cachao" Lopez and Carlos "Patato" Valdez, died April 17 in Miami. He was 59. Torres had an inoperable brain tumor and died after several days in a coma.

Considered one of Cuba's premier trombonists, Torres recorded alongside greats such as Bebo Valdes, Tito Puente, Paquito D'Rivera and Arturo Sandoval. In all, he made more than a dozen albums, both as a soloist and with other artists.

In 2001, Torres joined the project Cuban Masters, a big band made up of Cachao, Valdes and Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros. Their album "Cuban Masters, Los Originales" was nominated for several Latin Grammy awards.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

YerbaYerba Buena is putting the finishing touches on its second album, "Island Life." Due July 12 via Fun Machine/Razor & Tie, the set is the eclectic New York-based act's follow-up to its acclaimed 2003 debut, "President Alien."

Combining tropical sounds with bits of native and transplanted music that make up the fabric of New York, the concept album is described by producer/bandleader Andres Levin as "a soundtrack for urbanistic island living." It opens with "Sugar Daddy," which features actor/comedian John Leguizamo and French soul duo Les Nubians. Other guests include Joe Bataan, M1 of Dead Prez, Peret & Ile Aye, Rosie DePalma Fulanito and Orishas, among others.

Yerba Buena has a handful of tour dates scheduled, including a show Saturday (April 23) in New Orleans.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.