Dedicated to You

Kurt Elling's latest opus, Dedicated to You, documents a January 2009 concert on which the 41-year-old singer -- framed by his working trio, the Ethel String Quartet, and tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts -- addresses the repertoire performed by John Coltrane on his popular 1963 collaboration with baritone crooner Johnny Hartman (John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman) and on Coltrane's equally revered 1962 songbook project, Ballads. For all the iconic status of these albums, each was a one-take affair on material drawn more or less randomly from the musical theater and Brill Building wings of the Great American Songbook -- the British Invasion was still a year away, and these songs, not yet "classics," were still positioned firmly in the zeitgeist. While neither Coltrane nor Hartman needed much prepping to bring forth a point of view, Elling -- he launched this project on a commission from the 2006 Chicago Jazz Festival -- offers anything but an impromptu treatment. Instead, he offers a highly curated, polished recital, deploying savvy stagecraft to engage the audience, weaving in and out of the tight arrangements in ways that allow him to project his idiosyncratic sensibility with impeccable craft in matters of pitch, breath control, and command of meter. Dedicated is less conceptually ambitious than Elling's prior date, Nightmoves, on which he wove together leitmotifs drawn from poem-song, original lyrics set to instrumental improvisations from the jazz canon, and extended, on-the-highwire vocalese improvs into an explicit narrative arc, which he described as "late night; dark night of the soul; only questions at the top of the form and only beautiful answers at the end." As on his 2001 Blue Note tour de force, Flirting with Twilight, Elling asserts his embrace of the terms of engagement that existed for Hartman, and such core Elling influences as Mark Murphy, Jon Hendricks, Nat Cole, and Frank Sinatra; performances like "Nancy with the Laughing Face," "Lush Life" and the title track confirm his stature as a musician who can be mentioned in the same conversation with those masters.

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."