All About Jazz needs your help and we have a deal. Pay $20 and we'll hide those six pesky Google ads that appear on every page, plus this box and the slideout box on the right for a full year! You'll also fund website expansion.
I first encountered Barbara Sfraga on Oh, What a Thrill (Naxos Jazz), where I reflected upon the singer's remarkably broad-ranging, sensual, evocative voice. Under the Moon does not change that impression at all. Sfraga was more than bold on Oh, What a Thrill by coupling "Angel Eyes" with "Sunshine of Your Love." She has nothing so bold in her repertoire here, but her vocals remain fresh and exciting. Ms Sfraga is no newcomer, but her new album shows her more comfortable and more probing than on her previous releases. Most notable is the inclusion of John McLean on guitar and the lack of a piano. Though not perfectly interchangeable, a guitar-led band does has its advantages to one led by a piano, and Under the Moon illustrates this point amply.
Ms. Sfraga and Mr. McLean are almost on equal footing on this recording. His guitar sounds beautifully acoustic one moment, Bill Frisell steel guitar-like the next ("Mood Indigo") and standard jazz the next ("You've Changed"). "Stardust" is a towering achievement; setting the tone for the justification that standards are here to be interpreted and re-interpreted. Just when the most callous critic thinks s/he has heard it all, a disc like this comes along and blasts the contemporary wisdom ship from the water.
Ms. Sfraga employs all of the freedom offered by the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet, Betty Carter, and post bop sovereignty. She loosens the binds on the music and allows the muse to flow throughout Under the Moon. Just then I though I had wrapped up my end-of-the-year-list, a masterpiece has come under the wire.
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me
I grew up listening to mainstream '70s rock then ended up on the staff at the college paper at San Diego State, and volunteered to review heavy metal LPs. My second semester, the music editor dropped a Fenton Robinson LP on my desk, Night Flight. You like metal; they play guitar--he plays guitar, the editor told me. If we don't run a review, Alligator Records is going to stop servicing us.
Night Flight opened up a whole new world for me--the blues led me, inevitably, to Basie, who led to Duke, who led to Mingus, who led to Miles, who led to ...