Those crazy kids at Southport Records never take off their thinking caps: now that they have a small stable of female vocalists, they've borrowed the city's most intimate cabaret spot to show them off, over the quietest week of the year for live music. (Titling the series like a Playboy pictorial will probably attract a little attention as well.) The best bet of the four is the hyperexpressive vocalist (and Southport cofounder) Joanie Pallatto, who joins pianist Marshall Vente to re-create their recently released Two. The album, a program of duets, represents a departure for both artists: up till now Pallatto's eclectic recordings have featured a shifting lineup of accompanists, and Vente has recorded only with his large bands, Project 9+ and Tropicale. This smaller format forces them both to scale back their natural exuberance and results in some of the most heartfelt and affecting music either has recorded. The other three vocalists are in varying stages of development, and the two I've heard each excel only within a certain range of material: April Aloisio's sweet soprano sounds particularly good on ballads and Brazilian tunes; Linda Tate's smoky but innocent sound lights up songs from the 60s and 70s. This event includes a release party for the debut CD by the singer I haven't heard, Christiana Moffa. All the singers will work with the simple accompaniment of the piano. All four perform with Vente next Tuesday, January 6, at 8 and 10 PM; Tate performs with Bradley Williams next Wednesday, January 7, at 8 and 10 PM; Aloisio performs with Steve Million next Thursday, January 8, at 8 and 10 PM; Moffa performs with Bobby Schiff Friday, January 9, at 8 and 10 PM and midnight; and Pallatto and Vente return Saturday, January 10, with sets at 8 and 10 PM and midnight. Toulouse Cognac Bar, 2140 N. Lincoln Park West, Chicago; 773-665-9071. --Neil Tesser
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Joanie Palatto & Marshall Vente photo by B.P. Sparrow/April Aloisio photo by B.P. Sparrow.