Top Picks: 'Jazz for Japan,' a new book from Michael Connelly, 'We are Rising,' and more

A benefit album for Japan recorded by 25 jazz musicians, Michael Connelly's latest courtroom drama 'The Fifth Witness', an album produced for the RPM Challenge, and more recommendations.

Journey of the Bonesetter’s Daughter
The Fifth Witness
Jazz for Japan is a benefit album

How a bestseller went operatic

Journey of the Bonesetter's Daughter is a documentary about the creation of the highly successful opera produced by the San Francisco Opera and based on Amy Tan's bestselling novel. The story traces the impact of a grandmother's suicide as it resonates down through the generations. The film debuts on PBS May 8 at 10 p.m.

One month, one album

Among more than 2,000 bands that took the sixth annual RPM Challenge to produce an album in the month of February, Ryan Lott (who goes by Son Lux) was exceptional for coordinating with musicians nationwide, including Sufjan Stevens and The National, and video-documenting the entire effort online while still working his day job in Manhattan. We Are Rising is a big, beautiful odyssey of soaring harmonies and clashing cymbals all together even better than the 2008 debut he spent four years producing. The lesson? "Just go with your gut," Lott said afterward.

Jazz stars unite for Japan

Jazz for Japan is a benefit album recorded in two days by 25 of the top jazz musicians in the world to help the earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan. Among the participating musicians: Christian McBride, Tom Scott, Steve Gadd, and Bob James. Within five days of the quake the producers assembled this fine album of jazz standards such as "Maiden Voyage," "Body & Soul," and "So What." The performances have a loose and joyous feel and 60 cents of every dollar spent (you can download individual tracks on iTunes) goes to assist the victims.

Tango passion from a pro

Rojotango is a beguiling and sumptuous journey through modern and classical tango by the opera star Erwin Schrott, who offers his personal favorites from Astor Piazzolla, Pablo Ziegler, and Juan Carlos Cobian as well as a number of evocative Argentine and Brazilian folk songs.

Earnest melancholy

Over the Rhine is your introspective village preacher, lonely and open, melancholy and rejoicing, bitter and thankful. And as goes with such earnestness, jazzy pianist Linford Detweiler and smoky vocalist Karin Bergquist – a married couple from Cincinnati – have built a loyal following with 19 albums from rock and folk to jazz and soul. In a sign of their congregation's zeal, production of recently released The Long Surrender was financed through donations.

Foreclosure crime

Michael Connelly, long known for his bestselling "Harry Bosch" series, now counts ethically challenged defense lawyer Mickey Haller as an equal success. With the latest "Haller" courtroom drama, The Fifth Witness, Connelly delivers a twisting tale brimming with narrative brio and ripped-from-the-headlines drama from the housing crisis. Expect plenty of witnesses willing to testify to Haller's continuing – and well-earned – appeal.

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