168

Barbara Sfraga: Under The Moon

Franz A. Matzner By

Sign in to view read count
In most cases standards either serve as magnifying glasses, quickly revealing technical deficiencies, or as buoys offering support for performers gifted with technical skill but little creative ingenuity.

In the rarest of cases, however, standards can act as reflecting pools for an artist’s full range of abilities, and such is the case with Barbara Sfraga’s latest release, Under The Moon. Not only does Sfraga include a daunting array of pieces, such as the oft-performed classics "Mood Indigo," "Stardust Memories," and "Sophisticated Lady," she approaches each with a passionate dedication to reinvention. Sfraga’s minimalist reconfigurations simultaneously whittle each of the album’s ten tracks down to their emotional and musical cores, while building a dramatic atmosphere of subtlety and cleverness.

Not essentially an avant-gardist, Sfraga ensures that her explorations never approach the experimental limits of singer Devorah Day’s recent release, nor the genre-blurring work of Patricia Barber. Instead, by attempting to maintain the source material’s original conception while providing new structures to house it, Sfraga accomplishes something equally intriguing.

Unfortunately, not all of Sfraga’s experiments are entirely successful. Tunes like the too clever "I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face" and a mundane reading of "You’ve Changed" keep the album from being the milestone its stronger pieces suggest it could have been. That said, when Sfraga peaks, the results are gripping. Her floating, lilting version of "Stardust" is not only full of unexpected twists – an impressive feat considering the popularity of the piece – but also so successfully reframes the original that Carmichael’s lyric gains new depths of meaning.

In fact, that is what Sfraga does best. By locating the emotive source and finding new angles of access, she consistently focuses the listener on the energy of the original work. It is often pleasantly difficult to discern whether Sfraga has simply revitalized a tune or founded new levels of meaning through her arrangements. This phenomena is most pronounced in her rendition of "Stardust," as well as on Ellington’s "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Mood Indigo." These three tracks alone make the album recommended listening – and the surprise highlight, a wrenching bass-vocal duet performance of Bob Dylan’s "Every Grain of Sand," pushes it over the edge into a must for fans of minimalism and the poetry of lyrics.


Track Listing: 1. Stardust 2. I've Grown Accustomed To His Face 3. Mood Indigo 4. You've Changed 5. It Might As Well Be Spring 6. Under The Moon and Over The Sky 7. Sophisticated Lady 8. Prelude To A Kiss 9. Never Walk Away 10. Every Grain of Sand

Personnel: Barbara Sfraga: Vocals; John McLean: Guitars; Paul Wertico: Drums; Christopher Dean Sullivan: Acoustic Bass, Indigenous Tribal Nuances; Kevin Patrick: Percussion.

Title: Under The Moon | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: A440 Music


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard CD/LP/Track Review Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio CD/LP/Track Review Introducing the Simon Eskildsen Trio
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Moment Frozen CD/LP/Track Review Moment Frozen
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 19, 2017
Read Minor Step CD/LP/Track Review Minor Step
by Mike Jurkovic
Published: September 19, 2017
Read A Meeting Of Spirits CD/LP/Track Review A Meeting Of Spirits
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 18, 2017
Read First Light CD/LP/Track Review First Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 18, 2017
Read "Jazz Marathon 2" CD/LP/Track Review Jazz Marathon 2
by Jack Bowers
Published: March 20, 2017
Read "Resonance" CD/LP/Track Review Resonance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 23, 2017
Read "Miguel Angelo Quarteto: A Vida de X" CD/LP/Track Review Miguel Angelo Quarteto: A Vida de X
by Phil Barnes
Published: October 10, 2016
Read "On Hollywood Boulevard" CD/LP/Track Review On Hollywood Boulevard
by Budd Kopman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Live at the Blue Whale" CD/LP/Track Review Live at the Blue Whale
by Phillip Woolever
Published: May 9, 2017
Read "Penumbra" CD/LP/Track Review Penumbra
by Karl Ackermann
Published: January 10, 2017

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.