Nocturnes, By Kazuo Ishiguro

With their gently melancholy wit and bittersweet harmonies, Ishiguro's five "stories of music and nightfall" feel much like the Broadway standards that inspire them.

Here, the laid-back maestro performs elegant and tender riffs around a classic theme. His bruised but hopeful musicians range from a young cellist with a mystery guru to a budding folkie icon.

In "Crooner", a past-it smoothie serenades his soon-to-be-ex wife from a gondola. In the title tale, a sax player, bandage-swaddled after career-saving surgery, rejoices in his trademark version of "The Nearness of You".

With has-beens or with wannabes, Ishiguro never stints on his sympathy for artists gamely facing the music of time.