“Give my new disc a spin,” said Joanie Pallatto (via e–mail). “I think you’ll like it” (or words to that effect). Yeah, sure, I thought; another undiscovered phenom. Okay, so she was right; I liked it. A shade below phenomenal, perhaps, but I’ve heard a large number of female singers over the past few years including some big–label hotshots, and she’s in the same league with any of them. Pallatto’s warm, personal style suits well her charming, slightly husky voice. She has splendid control, range and diction, and — most important — abiding respect for a lyric. Oh, and her choice of material is exemplary, as is the 70:44 playing time on Words and Music, Joanie’s sixth recording on Chicago’s Southport label, which she and husband Bradley Parker–Sparrow co–own. Sparrow does more than serve as producer and recording engineer; he wrote and plays piano on a musical tribute to Jobim, “Antonio” (for which Joanie supplied the lyrics), and “So Fine.” Pallatto also penned new lyrics for Miles Davis’ “Somethin’ Else!” (on which she breezily sings and scats with Ron Cooper) and Kenny Dorham’s lovely “Blue Bossa.” These are high spots, as is Bob Dorough’s amusing “Love (Webster’s definition),” whose clever lyric lends itself perfectly to Pallatto’s sardonic point of view. My particular favorites among the half–dozen standards are Rodgers and Hart’s “This Can’t Be Love” and the Gershwins’ “But Not for Me,” although the sensuous opener, Hoagy Carmichael / Paul Francis Webster’s “Baltimore Oriole,” doesn’t lag far behind in that parade. Pallatto spices the menu by using a number of admirable back–up groups from duo (she and guitarist Dave Onderdonk in a saucy rendition of the turn–of–the–last–century hit, “Daisy Bell”) to quintet with Windy City veterans Eldee Young, Redd Holt and Willie Pickens among the better–known names. They’re first–rate, as are pianist Lou Gregory, bassist Dan Shapera, drummer Chanté Hamilton, percussionist Alejo Poveda and flutist Rich Fudoli (who’s on board for “Love” and “Desafinado”). Pallatto may never become what the world considers a star, but she’s doing what she loves best, and doing it quite well. That should be enough to make anyone happy including, of course, those who are lucky enough to hear and appreciate what she has to say.
Track listing: Baltimore Oriole; S’Wonderful; Love (Webster’s definition); So Fine; New Blues; I Got Rhythm; Daisy Bell; Antonio; Desafinado (off–key); Li’l Darlin’; Somethin’ Else!; This Can’t Be Love; The Lady Is a Tramp; But Not for Me; Blue Bossa (70:44).
Joanie Pallatto, vocals, with Rich Fudoli, flute; Dave Onderdonk, guitars; Lou Gregory, Willie Pickens, Bradley Parker