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Friday, March 3, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A&E briefs: Four jazz bands will compete in N.Y.

For the fourth time since 1999, four high-school jazz bands from Washington state have been selected as finalists in the prestigious Essentially Ellington Competition.

The schools are Garfield High School and Roosevelt High School, from Seattle; Newport High School, from Bellevue; and Battle Ground High School, from Vancouver, Wash.

The 15 finalists were selected from a field of 97 entries.

This is the first time Battle Ground has made the finals, and the second time for Newport. Garfield and Roosevelt have each made the cut seven times. Garfield won the competition in 2003 and 2004; Roosevelt won in 2002.

Finalists compete for first prize at Jazz at Lincoln Center, in New York, May 18-20.

Essentially Ellington was opened to high schools west of the Mississippi in 1999. Since then, Washington schools, particularly those in the Seattle area, have dominated the competition, snagging a remarkable 27 out of 125 finalist slots.

Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

Pearl Jam releases self-titled album

Pearl Jam's first album on a new label, J Records (after releasing eight albums on Epic over 10 years), will be called "Pearl Jam" and will be released May 2.

The first single, "World Wide Suicide," will be released to radio stations next Wednesday and will be available as a free download Wednesday and Thursday at www.pearljam.com. The single will be in stores March 14.

The album will be the Seattle band's first studio release in nearly four years. J Records was founded by Clive Davis, the legendary recording-industry executive.

Details on a world tour will be announced later this month.

Patrick MacDonald, Seattle Times music critic

Familiar faces return to "West Wing"

NEW YORK — A flock of alumni of NBC's "The West Wing" will return to reprise their roles one last time for the White House drama's final episodes, the network announced Tuesday.

Rob Lowe will come back as Sam Seaborn, the senior political official he played from 1999-2003. Mary-Louise Parker will return as women's-rights advocate Amy Gardner, who in years past has had an on-again-off-again romance with presidential adviser Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford).

Also bringing back their characters: Anna Deavere Smith, Emily Proctor, Marlee Matlin, Gary Cole, Tim Matheson, Timothy Busfield and Annabeth Gish.

"West Wing," starring Martin Sheen as President Jeb Bartlet, has five episodes remaining before going off the air for good after seven seasons.

Carol Burnett joins "Housewives"

Carol Burnett soon will be reporting to Wisteria Lane as Eleanor Mason, the cold stepmother of Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross) on "Desperate Housewives." Her arrival is tentatively scheduled to air April 9 .

"I thought this would be a hoot," said Burnett, 72, who starts taping next week. "I'm a soap-opera fan. I've watched 'All My Children' for a hundred years, and this, too, is a very campy soap. All these crazy things happen in this one town — just like ['All My Children's'] Pine Valley."

So far, Burnett is scheduled to appear in only one episode, but all parties are open to a return visit next season.

Fan says he was hit by Busta Rhymes

NEW YORK — Busta Rhymes and his bodyguard have been sued by a fan who says the two men beat him after he asked for the rapper's autograph.

Melvin Smith, 37, says in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan's state Supreme Court that Rhymes and Troy Green, both 33, "maliciously assaulted, beat, pushed and shoved him" outside a deli on Sept. 6, 2005.

The beating, court papers say, caused a cut under Smith's right eye that required four stitches. Smith has been unable to work as a handyman because of neck and back injuries he also sustained, his lawyer, Bruce Regenstreich, said Thursday.

"He was asking for an autograph," Regenstreich said. "That's all he was doing. He's a fan. He wasn't being a wise guy."

Green, of Brooklyn, was arrested Sept. 7, 2005, and charged with third-degree assault, third-degree attempted assault and second-degree harassment, all misdemeanors. He is due back in Manhattan Criminal Court on April 11.

Rhymes has not been charged with anything, the district attorney's office said.

Includes information from The Associated Press and USA Today

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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