SFRAGMENTS:* Notes on Barbara Sfraga's CD Party/Love-In
But back to what made the ambience so unusual. Everyone knows that a jazz musician's life is not an easy one, and that they frequently play under combat conditions. The struggle du jour may be with bad equipment, drunken patrons, and sly employers who, after the gig, decide to hold back a chunk of the agreed-upon fee. There's an upscale place nearby which hosts Sweet Sixteen parties and jazz trios simultaneously; their badly-insulated "private" party room leaks DJ thumpa-thumpa all over the jazz. And of course, there are always the singular risks of trying to make a living by marketing one's soul. We normalize all this by calling it "dues," when it's often nothing more or less than simple disrespect.
That's part of why this night was so special: it was Sfraga's veteran band, a great sound system, and a classy, hospitable place filled with friends (the woman who booked the gig couldn't get a table). Sfraga has a heart the approximate size of Nebraskaï"with an ego that's exactly the oppositeï"and the warmth emanating from the audience made her glow. The support was also tangible: after a few tunes, a note was scribbled on a napkin and passed it up to the bandstand: "We want more volume on the singer!"
Lately, as more jazz musicians scramble for a bigger piece of a shrinking pie, things are becoming tense and sometimes get ugly (that's another story altogether). But for this one night, at least, the harmony was everywhereï"in fact, the scribbled note was from another singer. Those other stories are legion, and all too familiar. This one is rare. Brava, Sfraga.
*Wordplay courtesy of George Ziskind.