Billboard Bits: Mary J. Blige, Ramsey Lewis, Carson Daly
News on Mary J. Blige, Ramsey Lewis, Carson DalyMary J. Blige became engaged to her boyfriend, whom she prefers to keep out of the spotlight, over the holidays. She hasn't set a wedding date, but says that when she does, it will be "no big wedding. It will be a small wedding with just real friends and family. The industry is not going to know about it, the press is not going to know about it."
This week, the 31-year-old Blige re-released her latest MCA album, "No More Drama." It contains new songs, including a Sean "P. Diddy" Combs remix of the song the title cut. It marks the first time Combs and Blige have worked together since he produced her first two discs, 1992's "What's the 411" and 1994's "My Life."
Blige said it was good to work with Combs again. "We're the same people, but smarter people," she said. "It was a lot of fun, it was like old times." She will perform at the Super Bowl on Sunday (Feb. 3), then head out on a U.S. tour that begins Tuesday in Albany, and closes March 6 in Los Angeles. From there, an international tour begins March 13 in Tokyo, and will stretch through April 25 in Dublin.
-- AP & Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.
Jazz legends and longtime friends pianist Ramsey Lewis and vocalist Nancy Wilson have teamed up again on the new album, "Meant To Be," due Feb. 26 via Narada. The set will feature five original Lewis tracks, including the title song and "A Moment Alone," the most originals the artist says he's had on an album in many years. The sudden urge to write new pieces came as a result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., which Lewis says made him realize he'd been neglecting that aspect of his music.
Even so, the album will feature several covers, including a duet between the artists on Van Morrison's "Moondance." The suggestion to do the well-known song came from Karen Williams, who co-hosts a morning radio show on Chicago jazz outlet WNUA-AM. Lewis also hosts the syndicated radio show "Legends of Jazz" that airs Saturday nights on more than 80 U.S. radio stations.
Wilson's voice will be heard on on five tracks, recorded across just two days in September, shortly after the attacks. The album, which is Lewis and Wilson's first pairing on record since 1984's Stanley Clark-produced "The Two of Us," also features the talents of the Ramsey Lewis Trio (rounded out by drummer Ernie Adams and bassist Larry Gray). Other songs slated to appear on the album include Dave Frishberg's "Peel Me a Grape," Allan Sherman's "Did I Every Really Live?," and the Brenda Russell/Jeff Hull/Scott Cutler track "Piano in the Dark."
-- Barry A. Jeckell, N.Y.
Carson Daly, host of MTV's "Total Request Live" and NBC's latest late night entry "Last Call With Carson Daly," is starting a recording label. The as-yet-unnamed imprint will be distributed and marketed by Loud Records.
The Sony-owned Loud's roster is largely made up of rap acts such as Xzibit, the Wu-Tang Clan (who recently appeared on "Last Call"), and Funkmaster Flex. The label is also home to hard rock act Stereomud, and will on Feb. 5 re-release a remixed and remastered version Megadeth's debut album "Killing is My Business... And Business is Good."
-- Gail Mitchell, L.A.
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