Billboard Bits: Jay-Z, John Denver, Valdés/Cigala, Zombies

News on Jay-Z, John Denver, Valdés/Cigala, Zombies

JayWith the NBA Board of Governors' unanimous approval yesterday (Aug. 11) of the sale of the New Jersey Nets, Jay-Z is officially in the business of basketball.

The retiring rapper is a minority investor in an ownership group headed by real estate developer Bruce Ratner that will reportedly pay an estimated $300 million for the team, now owned by Community Young Organization.

Ratner hopes to move the team from the Garden State to Brooklyn, N.Y., and into a new 19,000-seat arena. Plans for the venue and an office and residential complex have met mixed reaction from area residents.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

DenverA new John Denver retrospective will kick off a three-year campaign of archival releases from the late singer/songwriter. BMG Strategic Marketing will issue the 20-track "Definitive All Time Greatest Hits" on Oct. 5, to coincide with the 35th anniversary of Denver's RCA solo debut.

The set is bolstered by a four-track bonus disc of previously unreleased recordings, including the earliest known version of "Leaving on a Jet Plane." Liner notes will feature track-by-track commentary from producer Milt Okun.

In the months ahead, BMG will issue two previously unreleased concert recordings and two DVDs, details of which have yet to be announced. Denver died in a 1997 plane crash at the age of 53.

-- Jonathan Cohen, N.Y.

RockIn addition to performing at the
Latin Grammys on Sept. 1, 85-year-old Cuban musician Bebo Valdés and Spanish flamenco cantador Diego "El Cigala" have scheduled a trio of U.S. tour dates. The pair will perform their first concerts together in the States Sept. 2 at Los Angeles' Wilshire Theatre, Sept. 8 at New York's Beacon Theatre and Sept. 9 at Miami's Jackie Gleason Theatre.

Their Calle 54 album "Lágrimas Negras" (Black Tears) drew nominations in five Latin Grammy categories, including record, album and traditional tropical album of the Year. The set reached No. 5 on Billboard's Top World Albums chart, No. 11 on Billboard's Latin Pop Albums tally and No. 54 on the Top Latin Albums list.

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.

ZombiesThe surviving members of influential U.K. rock act the Zombies have teamed up with Rhino Records to stage a memorabilia auction in memory of the band's late guitarist, Paul Atkinson. Among the items up for bid are a Rickenbacker guitar signed by Zombies Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone, Chris White and Hugh Grundy, as well as items signed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin, members of the Beach Boys and Ringo Starr.

Proceeds from the auction, which also boasts items from the worlds of film and sports, will benefit the Paul Atkinson Family Trust, the Gift of Life Foundation and the United Network for Organ Sharing. The auction will launch Sept. 16 via
eBay and run the length of the band's fall tour with Arthur Lee & Love.

The Zombies will be touring in support the album "As Far As I Can See," due Sept. 14 via Rhino. The set features Argent and Blunstone, as well as several vocal contributions from White.

Here are confirmed Zombies tour dates:

Sept. 28: San Francisco (TBD)
Sept. 29: Los Angeles (Wilshire Ebell Theatre)
Oct. 1: Anaheim, Calif. (the Grove)
Oct. 2: San Diego (4th & B)
Oct. 5: Greeley, Col. (Union Colony Civic Center)
Oct. 11: Cleveland (Beachland Ballroom)
Oct. 13: New York (Town Hall)
Oct. 16: Falls Church, Va. (State Theatre)

-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.