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Joanie Pallatto: As You Spend Your Life

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When the most scintillating Caribbean track you’ve heard in ages comes from an Italian-American singer and pianist from Chicago, you sit up and take extra notice. The track is “Playa Bonita,” a playful slice of sun-drenched iridescence co-written and performed by Joanie Pallatto and her life partner, producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist Bradley Parker-Sparrow. But the cut represents only the tip of the album’s eclectic dynamism.

Pallatto sounds a lot like Stevie Nicks-if, that is, Nicks was a top-drawer jazz stylist of expansive musical tastes and keen instincts. Trying to channel Pallatto is like attempting to bottle a cyclone. It’s best to just let her run wild, dashing from the heart-lifting beauty of “For My Mother’s Love,” the deep musings of “Into the Looking Glass” and the cozy contentment of “Another Quiet Night,” to the live-in-studio improvisation “We Got It,” with bassist Dave Onderdonk, and the swirling cacophony (complete with dog barks) of the vocal tone poem “Touch.”

Of the album’s 11 selections, 10 are Pallatto originals. The exception is a re-imagining of Frank Foster’s “Simone” that features a lyric Pallatto penned more than 30 years ago. Featuring Bob Dorough on piano and vocal accompaniment, it represents the rousing union of two imaginative geniuses-one in the twilight of his exemplary career, the other only midway through her multifarious musical adventure.

Originally Published