Quincy Jones, "Q: Soul Bossa Nostra": Not that anything less would be expected from the legendary Quincy Jones, but "Q: Soul Bossa Nostra" is a very cool concept very well executed.
The idea: Survey Jones' career by taking some of his most familiar songs and redoing them with today's pop and hip-hop stars. The disc kicks off with original instrumental bed of the "Ironside" theme song with Talib Kweli rapping about Q over the top and rambles through 15 songs, ending with the "Sanford and Son" theme featuring, among others, T.I.
Everything isn't beautiful. Jennifer Hudson can still oversing with the best of them as she American Idolizes "You Put a Move on My Heart," while Amy Winehouse and Jones do a number on Leslie Gore's "It's My Party" that changes the whole feel of the song. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
The guests, especially Snoop Dogg, seem to revel in paying tribute to Jones, and the blend of classic Q and modern sounds and vocalists works well. Jones is 77 years old and still the hippest guy in town. Grade: B
Elvis Costello, "National Ransom": This sprawling, 16-song grab-bag of songs from the prolific Costello lacks anything resembling focus.
Bouncing from buzzing soft psychedelia to country, ballads to jazz, the disc encapsulates Costello's wide-ranging approach - he's made whole records in each of those forms. Because it goes in every direction, "National Ransom" doesn't connect like his best work. T-Bone Burnett's fuzzy production doesn't help matters, either.
There are some great songs on the disc, including the economic protest song that provides the title and the jazz ballad "A Slow Drag with Josephine," and Costello's literary lyrics remain compelling. But "National Ransom," like last year's "Secret, Profane and Sugarcane," falls short of his best. Grade: B-
"Treme: Music from the HBO Original Series, Season 1": Forget about this being a soundtrack album of sorts and get ready for the funky New Orleans sound. Packed full of brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, the music rolls and jumps and celebrates the place where it was created.
Trombone Shorty and Dr. John are a couple of bona fide stars on the disc, and there's also a knowing outsider's viewpoint from Steve Earle and one vintage classic, "Time Is On My Side," from Irma Thomas. Dubya gets a well-deserved slap in the face, too.
I didn't find much use for "Treme" the show. But its music is irresistible. Grade: B+