SOUTHPORT FESTIVAL 1996
The reputation of Southport Records–the exuberant local jazz label owned by pianist Bradley Parker-Sparrow and his wife, vocalist Joanie Pallatto–rests only partly with the quirky and entertaining albums by its principals; the label also affords a haven for a wide range of other local artists with something to say and (for whatever reason) nowhere else to say it. These range from the well-known–such as the internationally acclaimed Chicago tenor saxist Von Freeman and his guitarist brother George–to such newer artists as Linda Tate, a promising and sometimes beguiling singer who opens the Saturday-night program in this weekend festival. The schedule includes the veteran trumpeter Bobby Lewis as well as performances by guitar speedster Frank Portolese and the subtle, Brazilian-tinged vocalist April Aloisio. But for me the real highlights lurk in the presentation of two rarely heard combos, each of which will celebrate the release of its new CD. Friday the program builds to Fire, whose eponymous album displays an unexpected melange of Von Freeman’s hyperexpressionism, Pallatto’s odd-child vocals, and the minimalist piano melodies of Parker-Sparrow. Rounding out the rhythm section, drummer Mike Raynor and Tatsu Aoki ensure the necessary steady flow of oxygen. Aoki–the protean and prodigious bassist whose musical contacts have helped establish a link between progressive jazz scenes in Chicago and the San Francisco area–also performs in a cooperative trio with local drummer Dave Pavkovic and San Francisco saxist Francis Wong to close the festival. Their new CD, Urban Reception, features free improvising and hard swing, and that combination brings out an especially appealing side of Wong’s playing. Sunday’s gig opens with three and a half hours given over to seven pianists, but most of this year’s festival at least promises to hold to a fairly tight schedule. Friday and Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 4 PM, Bop Shop, 1807 W. Division; 235-3232. Lewis will give a free in-store performance Saturday, 1 PM, Best Buy, 1000 W. North; 988-4067. NEIL TESSER
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Sara Sipes.