The last time Cassandra Wilson attempted an album devoted purely to standards --Blue Skies from 1988 -- she played it uncustomarily safe. Loverly, a new standards project, displays the considerable distance this acclaimed singer has come over the years. Loverly calls on the idiosyncratic mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation and rural blues inflections that her fans have become familiar with since the 1993 breakthroughBlue Light ?Til Dawn. The repertoire may draw from the likes of Lerner & Loewe and Harold Arlen, but the performances abound with folk and slide guitars, hand percussion, and the unconventional piano work of Jason Moran. In other words, off-kilter sheen on familiar material -- an approach that Wilson, in excellent, customarily laid-back form, takes to with second-nature glee. She also allows herself more freedom by wisely extending the standards concept to include the bluesy "St. James Infirmary" and "Dust My Broom," the Latinized Ellington hit "Caravan," the bossa nova warhorse "A Day in the Life of a Fool," and her own percussive original "Arere." The most resonant performances are the simplest. Accompanied only by the Joni Mitchell–esque guitar work of Marvin Sewell, Wilson delivers a "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" for the ages; while "The Very Thought of You," with the lone support of bassist Lonnie Plaxico, displays the sensuous ease that no jazz singer of her generation has yet to match.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

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

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

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.