& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & C & lt;/span & an you say "vanity project"? Timbaland can. Shock Value is an attempt by the nearly ubiquitous producer to get the rest of the way to ubiquity by working with as many stylistically divergent superstars as possible. Well, he's got his bread and butter. Timb handled the beats for Justin Timberlake's excellent Future Sex/Love Sounds; here, JT guests on three tracks. He's roundly uninspiring, like the beats he's paired with.
Tracks featuring Dre, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, She Wants Revenge, the Hives and Timb's prot & eacute;g & eacute; Keri Hilson fare better, though those featuring Fall Out Boy and (good God) Elton stretch absurdity well past its breaking point.
You could see Timbaland Presents Shock Value coming when Timb stepped onstage with Timberlake at the MTV Video Music Awards last year. He was nervous, awkward and fumbly. This is a guy who wants to be a star but doesn't know how.
-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & F & lt;/span & or a trumpet-led quartet with a lyrical sound and traces of classical influence, try Ralph Alessi and his group This Against That.
While Alessi has played as a sideman for Steve Coleman (alto sax), Uri Caine (piano) and Don Byron (clarinet), among others, Look is his fourth album as a leader. In several compositions here, Alessi demonstrates a preference for ostinato and diminuendo; for example, in "Hands," two repeated measures gradually decelerate at the finish to a slow fade.
On four of the 12 tracks, Ravi Coltrane (tenor sax) joins Alessi; in the title tune, their two horns interplay sinuously over Andy Milne's insistent piano. On "Lap Nap," Milne contributes staccato piano notes that transform into a funky solo. Drew Gress uses his bow to coax eerie mourning sounds out of his bass on "Platform Velvet."
On this Between the Lines release, though, Alessi's creative oscillations with Coltrane are what to Look for.
-- MICHAEL BOWEN
DOWNLOAD: "Old Beady Eyes"