Across the Crystal Sea

Across the Crystal Sea marks a departure for pianist Danilo Perez, 43, an intrepid explorer of turbulent musical waters on myriad leader and sideman projects for the past two decades. An alumnus of bands led by pioneer Pan-Americanists Dizzy Gillespie and Paquito D'Rivera, Perez played a key role in conceptualizing the multilingual tilt of '90s jazz through a series of Verve and Impulse albums that documented his ingenious admixture of folkloric beats and melodies from various South American and Caribbean cultures -- particularly Panama, his homeland -- with harmonic and rhythmic dialects drawn from a long timeline of hard-core modern jazz. These days, Perez is best known for his eight-year association with the Wayne Shorter Quartet, in which he creates tabula rasa improvisations on Shorter pieces with titles like On the Milky Way Express and As Far as the Eye Can See. On Crystal Sea Perez navigates a smoother surface -- i.e., a plush suite of charts by Claus Ogerman, the 77-year-old "light classical" maestro whose past credits include gems by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Hank Jones, and Diana Krall. Here Ogerman orchestrates themes by choral composer Hugo Distler, Sibelius, De Falla, Rachmaninoff, and Massenet. He also offers a single original and dresses up two less-traveled "standards" for reigning diva Cassandra Wilson, here wearing her Shirley Horn hat, to interpret. In complete command of the forms, Perez imparts a tidal ebb-and-flow, tone-painting through the ravishing melodies with meticulously calibrated touch. Playing their roles to perfection, bassist Christian McBride and drummer Lewis Nash sustain the lyric simmer.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."