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Southport Records Founders Jazz Heros 2016



Native Chicago pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow and Cincinnati-bred vocalist Joanie Pallatto, married now for 33 years, have separate yet intertwined musical careers. Sparrow has recorded more than a dozen albums under his own name, many featuring Joanie; she’s released nine albums as a leader, several with Sparrow at the piano. They recorded most of those sessions at Sparrow Sound Design, the northside studio they built in 1977 (and maintained until 2013), and all of them were released on their family labels Southport and Northport Records. Their resumes, however, don’t acknowledge the couple’s larger contributions to Chicago music. Many musicians have formed small labels to promote their work, but none other than Southport/Northport have expanded to comprise more than 75 other artists and over 140 albums – mostly of jazz but also including cabaret performers and contemporary classical composers. Through this catalog Sparrow and Joanie, as they are warmly known throughout the local music community, have bountifully served that community and beyond. The Southport catalog brims with jazz-famous Chicagoans. Sparrow and Joanie have produced multiple albums by iconoclastic tenor saxophonists Fred Anderson and Von Freeman; Von’s guitarist-brother George who, thanks to Southport, remains in demand at age 89; modernist piano master Willie Pickens; bassist Tatsu Aoki (2015 Chicago “Jazz Hero”), and all but one member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Southport/Northport’s intrinsic value is further enhanced by its founders’ belief that Chicago teems with lesser-known musicians who are unrecorded but need to be heard – especially some whose idiosyncrasies place them beyond the pale of traditional labels. This belief, and its corollary that audiences can make up their own minds about the music's enjoyability, have brought hidden gems to light. As Joanie said in a 2010 New York Times profile, “Who else would do this?” The lack of like-minded risk-takers proves her point. Sparrow and Joanie have done it, independently and together, as performers, label owners, producers, engineers and impresarios of low-key showcases. They’ve collaborated on dozens of songs with lyrics, and album-length suites. Joanie has appeared on hundreds of nationally broadcast commercials, and Sparrow has written soundtracks for five films – also a film and plays of his own – as well as having published music criticism and entertainingly opinionated rants. For all this which enriches Chicago’s cultural mosaic, Joanie and Sparrow are our Jazz Heroes. - Neil Tesser JJA Board Member Grammy-winning album annotator

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