Joanie Pallatto: Accidental Melody

Chicago studio singer performs 13 of her own songs over predominantly Latin backgrounds embellished by guitarist Fareed Haque


Amid the welter of words and pictures that accompany Chicago singer-songwriter Joanie Pallatto’s 13th album – her fourth comprising entirely original material – it might have been useful to have had the lyrics of what are thoughtful and passionate songs about love and life. But there’s no need, because every word can be heard.

Among Pallatto’s accomplishments are running a recording studio for 40 years with her husband, Bradley Parker-Sparrow, being one of Chicago’s “leading studio voices”, and recording 17 albums as leader or co-leader.

The 13 tunes here are either wholly Pallatto compositions or ones written with her husband or with guitarist Fareed Haque. The Melody Of You and Sound are duets with Parker-Sparrow on piano and The Cuckoo Clock and Lafayette duets with Haque.

The are lots of extra-musical dedications including to her home town of Xenia, Ohio (The Cuckoo Clock) and for Haque (A Shooting Star). This is a singer sharing with others and acknowledging personal connections. On the evidence of the album, one imagines Pallatto as a versatile singer in a city synonymous with jazz, but with her range extending beyond jazz parameters to embrace cabaret and less raucous musical settings.

With no horns, a piano only on the duets with Parker-Sparrow, percussion used so sparingly there’s a wonder two musicians are responsible for it and a Pallatto delivery that can soar and scat as well as border on sprechstimme, the mood is right for the songwriter’s wise counsel and observation of things romantic.

Titles are the giveaways: the strophic Apart, about love conquering separation; the self-explanatory Don’t Ever Look For Love, with Haque as delicate as filigree on acoustic, electric and steel-string guitars; the duet Sound, which has metaphorical references plus Parker-Sparrow investigating the innards of the piano as well as its keyboard; and The Lost Year, a light and jolly lookback in Latin mood at what one presumes is Covid lockdown.

The sentiments are everything in these songs, which is probably why, except for extensive solo and embellishment by Haque, the instrumental accompaniments are understated. The titular Accidental Melody might have been accidental but there’s nothing accidental about the other melodies: they are mindful and precise.

Surrender; Accidental Melody; Apart; You Think You Know; A Shooting Star; The Melody Of You; Don’t Ever Look For Love; The Cuckoo Clock; In The Middle Of Life; Sound; Lafayette; Keeping Track Of Time; The Lost Year (56.54)
Pallatto (v); Fareed Haque (g); John Christensen (b); Eric Hines, Juan Pastor (pc); Bradley Parker-Sparrow (p). Chicago, July-November 2022.
Southport Records S-SSD 0154