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LABEL UPDATES: Steve Rifkind Launches New Label & Alpert and Moss Cash Out For $211 Million From Vivendi (Click on More to view all articles)

Steve Rifkind, who founded Loud Records in 1992 and folded it into Columbia Records in 2002, has formed another label, Street Records Corp. to be distributed by Universal Motown Records.

The first release, under the SRC/Universal banner, will come on April 29 from hip-hop producer and Crooked Lettaz alum David Banner, who has worked with Snoop Dogg, Trick Daddy and Pastor Troy. While running Loud Records, The Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Big Punisher recorded for the label.

Rifkind remains head of his lifestyle marketing firm Steve Rifkind Co., in which he recently sold a 50 percent stake to Mosaic Media Holdings.

Alpert and Moss Cash Out For $211 Million From Vivendi

Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, who founded A&M Records, have reaped a huge payday–$211 million in cash and stock from Vevendi Universal. It all dates back to Seagram's acquisition of music publisher Rondor Music from Alpert and Moss in 2000 for $350 million is stock. Vivendi, which later acquired Seagram, was required to pay Alpert and Moss an additional payment if Vivendi's stock dipped below $37.50 for 10 straight days.

The stock dropped below that level on April 3, 2002 and has fallen ever since closing at a tad above $12 on March 10. Alpert and Moss received $100.3 million in cash and 0.8% of Vivendi's total outstanding stock.

Alpert and Moss decided to sell their shares in April and May of last year, and according to the agreement, would receive the extra payment this month, with the figure based on the original stock price going back to when they sold the publishing company three years ago.

Actor-Singer Chianese Releases New CD

NEW YORK (AP) — No matter what happens on "The Sopranos," Dominic Chianese can always carve out another career as a singer.

Chianese, who plays Uncle Junior, is coming out with a new CD, "Ungrateful Heart." It features 19 songs which are mostly in Italian.

Standards like "O Solo Mio" and "Funiculi, Funicula" are placed alongside the title track, the Italian song he sang in the third-season finale of "The Sopranos." Other songs are from Chianese's childhood in New York, where he grew up during the 1930s and 1940s.

The new album will be out May 20.

The future of "The Sopranos" has recently been in doubt due to a dispute that stems from a breach-of-contract lawsuit that James Gandolfini, who plays mafia boss Tony Soprano, filed against HBO in a Los Angeles court earlier this month.

The actor claims HBO missed a deadline for advising him that his services would be needed for a fifth season, which was scheduled to begin production next week.

The network has said the lawsuit was linked to Gandolfini's demand for a salary increase.

HBO promptly fired back, filing a counterclaim against Gandolfini that would require the actor to settle his contract dispute or risk being liable for more than $100 million in damages.

Network executives involved in the negotiations told The New York Times that Gandolfini, who had previously sought a $20 million annual salary, has now lowered his request to about $16 million a year.

Ravi Coltrane Forms Record Label RKM Music

Reedmen Ravi Coltrane and Michael McGinnis, along with Ravi's wife and business partner, Kathleen Hennessy have forming the record label RKM Music. Originally conceived by Coltrane in 1999, it was the music of McGinnis and trumpeter/fluegelhornist Ralph Alessi that provided the catalyst for him to finally get things in motion.

Founded upon the principle of allowing each artist to have total control over the recording from start to finish, every CD issued will be produced by the artist and recorded in a manner that best facilitates and captures the sound of his or her group creating music in the moment. While the initial plan was to form a web-based label, the three visionary founders recognized the importance of having a presence in retail outlets to work in coordination with touring and promotion. To that end, RKM has entered into a national distribution agreement with the longstanding San Rafael, California-based distributor City Hall Records for its initial release of three CDs.

This release includes two CDs by Ralph Alessi & shy; Vice and Virtue and This Against That, and Tangents by Michael McGinnis and Between Green. Ravi Coltrane serves as Executive Producer on all three albums. While it may seem a bit unorthodox for a new label to issue two CDs by the same artist simultaneously, the contexts of the two recordings are significantly different, united by the remarkable musical artistry of Alessi.

Future releases include a new recording by Venezuelan pianist Luis Perdomo, who's been gaining powerful recognition for his work with Ray Barretto and Ravi Coltrane, and a project with poet Julie Patton with many members of the RKM collective producing tracks. This collaborative spirit will be an ongoing element of RKM Music.

Miles Copeland Producing Documentary on Bellydancers

Miles Copeland is producing the first ever documentary on bellydancing in the United States. Copeland's record label Mondo Melodia, has achieved success in bringing Arabic repertoire to the mainstream. Well known for his skill in alternative marketing, Copeland decided to use bellydancers in an effort to augment awareness of Mondo Melodia's music and found himself intrigued by the culture, politics, and history of bellydancing itself. Thus inspired, Copeland brought the 8-member American dance troupe, Bellydance Superstars, to Los Angeles for two concert appearances in 2002. This year the Bellydance Superstars will perform in more than 30 cities nationwide as well as participating in Copeland's documentary film, "American Bellydancer."

"I took on this project for a variety of reasons," Copeland says . "The first is that bellydancing is an exotic, sensual art, and I was absorbed by it. But I was also fascinated by how bellydance was growing in America. I wanted to know what was happening in the minds and lives of the dancers, teachers, and fans. I wanted to know why it was happening now. The more I learned about bellydancing and its culture, the more I became interested in it, and "American Bellydancer" is an outgrowth of that interest."

"American Bellydancer" explores the rapidly developing world of the ancient art in the United States. Almost explosive in its growth, bellydancing has inspired dance troupes, bellydance schools, a thriving internet community, and a new generation of dancers. Bellydancing addresses issues of gender politics, religion, spirituality and ethnicity. Yet it's also a tremendously entertaining art form — which explains why it has remained vital since its estimated origin in 200 B.C. At a time of fragile relationships between the US and the Middle East, bellydancing bridges the cultural and political divide.

"It's been a challenge to bring Middle Eastern music and dance to the U.S. in
the current political environment," Copeland says. "The fact that we've encountered occasional negatives has been far outweighed by the positives. Bellydancing is about art, not politics, but in experiencing the art, you also experience the culture, and that becomes political in and of itself."

"American Bellydancer" is directed by multiple award-winner Jon Brandeis, who's worked in various capacities within the film and TV community. Brandeis' credits include properties developed for ABC, Bravo, Showtime, Cinemax, VH-1 and MTV, among many others. The documentary, which began shooting in Puerto Rico and Miami in February, delves into the world of U.S. dancers via interviews with teachers, students at all levels and fans. It includes footage of dance performances in cities across America. Together, each element combines to provide a comprehensive view of the evolving American art of bellydance.

"American Bellydancer" will also document Mondo Melodia's search for the finest bellydancers in America to form the Desert Roses Arabian Dance Troupe, joining the Bellydance Superstars on a major tour this summer, as well as the touring troupe for 2004. Initial candidates will be selected from video submissions and auditions around the country while shooting "American Bellydancer," with the final bellydancers chosen after in-person auditions in Los Angeles. Filming will wrap in July of this year; "American Bellydancer" is expected to be released in January 2004.