Barbara Sfraga – Timelessness Frozen In Time

Barbara Sfraga
and Search Center Quest

Timelessness Frozen In Time
(Concord – 2006)
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.

Barbara Sfraga is a throwback to the days of vocal jazz and improvisational creativity. Barbara’s musical focus evolved from church organist to rock keyboardist to jazz singer to voicist, giving her a rounded perspective on writing and producing tracks. Under the Moon, which was one of the good projects released by the now-defunct A440 Records, and What a Thrill (Naxos Jazz) had a few of her originals sprinkled throughout, but she was primarily known for her unconventional twists on jazz and pop standards (pops-terdizing jazz and jazz-terdizing pop, as she says.)

Her new CD blends her strong, beautiful voice with a new group of musicians and emphasizes her writing skills more than previous CDs. Joined by Christopher Dean Sullivan, Michael T.A. Thompson, Mala Waldron and Allen Won (collectively known as Center Search Quest), Sfraga and the group are genre-bending their way to a whole new sound. All five musicians lend their creative – and sometimes their physical – voices to this project. There is even some three part harmony in the rocket-paced Cool Water which is as close to scatting as you can get without actually doing it. Chris Sullivan refers to himself as a Bass Artisan on the notes and you’ll feel what he means when you follow his bass moves and changes as they carry Barbara along on Love Breaks Free.

Her take on the Rufus classic Tell Me Something Good is 180° from the original, filled with clever phrasing and some nice sax work by Allen Won, and even a little spoken word… another fine example of jazz-sterdizing an R&B track. My favorite is Tell Me, both for the lyrical beauty and the musical groove. Somewhere between Pharaoh Sanders and Tania Maria, this track works a melodious magic on the listener carrying you off to wherever it is that Sfraga is holding your imagination. It’s music without borders! With roots firmly planted in jazz and with the improvisational element always in place, Sfraga and CSQ are on a quest to leave no groove unturned. Dig it.