• My pick of the week is worth searching for in the import bins, lest no American label grabs the hypnotic trip-jazz masterpiece by the Broadway Project entitled The Vessel (which will be released this Tuesday).

After a staggered and protracted soundcheck – to a nearly full audience, no less – the Marlboro Chorus finally hit the stage in earnest roughly an hour after its scheduled start time. This is no sweat for me because it’s my first visit to the Quad Cities Brew & View and I’m just sort of touring the joint – a great venue for live bands, and for movies as well, I’m sure.

• This Tuesday the Northern Blues label releases a terrific new tribute to the master songcraft of Johnny Cash, entitled Johnny's Blues. Cash was already saluted earlier this year in two other CD tributes on other labels, and this new project collects 13 Cash songs spun in a wide range of blues styles, from acoustic soul to roadhouse boogie.

• If you've caught the smooth fever of Norah Jones, a new seven-track EP reveals sessions from 2000 featuring covers of Magic Sam's "All Your Love" and Bob Dylan's "Heart of Mine." Simply titled The Peter Malick Group Featuring Norah Jones, the Koch Entertainment CD is the fruit of a friendship between the blues singer-songwriter and Jones, then a 21-year-old unknown artist trying to establish herself.

• Almost as iconic as Mr. Rogers' trademark cardigan is the green striped rugby shirt worn by Steve on Nickelodeon TV's Blue's Clues. After six years as the show's original host, he's been replaced by another soft-spoken actor, and it felt unsettling to deflect "Steve is dead" rumors from my seven-year-old and find Steve Burns the post-blue-dog serious actor portraying a creepy killer on Law & Order.

• Perfect for poolside summer reading, three new rock-and-roll books have captured my attention and plenty of Coppertone smudges. Hot off the New York Times best-selling KISS & Make-Up, demon bassist Gene Simmons offers up his new book, Sex Money KISS, a fascinating rant on all things financial or romantic from a guy who seems to have had it all.

Luckily, the future of chamber music will fall on the broad shoulders of the Sauer family and its colleagues. With the Quad City Symphony Orchestra eliminating its chamber series for the 2003-4 season, music fans will have reduced concert offerings.

• Holding their flag of plea and protest high above them, three new benefit projects have recently surfaced bringing attention to AIDS in southern Africa, Parkinson's disease, sarcoma cancer, and the death penalty.

• In a world where it seems every niche guilty-pleasure recording is currently in print in some corner of the planet, there isn't much big game left roaming the out-of-print album grasslands. From Rhino Records' catalog to re-issue-only imprints such as Superfecta, a music fanatic's "short list" of lost recordings is probably that - a short list.

It's billed as the Midwest's largest gathering of motorcycles, and if you like bikes, you probably already know about Sturgis on the River.

But the free event is also becoming something of a local band showcase, so if you're a fan of Quad Cities bands and music, it might well be worth your time on Friday and Saturday.

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