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  • Bradley Parker-Sparrow


Updated: Jan 17, 2023

Sparrow Sound Design, Southport Records News & Commentary

by b.p. sparrow

In the last 2 years the world has been so amazingly strange it has been hard to write

anything in English on the computer. How do you react to anything when you are reacting to something else at the same time? This perhaps is the greatest gift from Trump, overlapping speed bumps to stir the meager masses.

In Chicago, we have 37 people running for Mayor. In the State of Illinois we have some of the highest state income taxes in the nation. In the federal government we keep spending money for everything. In the world we have Global Warming and this recent Polar Vortex. Polar Vortex sounds like an Edgar Varese or Sun Ra song. That is why I will start with the subject of pickles.

Grillos Pickles

When you get older and even when you are younger you should not eat pickles. The problem is the salt, and my friend Michel would tell me that. The other problem is that pickles, like salted nuts, taste so good (sorry Michel). Grillos Pickles are offered in a plastic device that is so full when you open the device the pickle juice spills all over your pants. In order to open the pickles there is a plastic slot on the side that you can only remove with needle nose pliers. On the top of the pickle device it says "press hard to close" but it will not lock (like a cottage cheese container.) In our house we have to transfer the pickles to a cottage cheese container device and then place it in a 2nd bowl as a back up for drainage.

The Englewood Whole Foods

It is so sad that the Whole Foods in Englewood closed. The workers that lost their walk to jobs. The return to a food "Desert." Now Amazon owns Whole Foods. The couple that founded Amazon, no longer a couple give Millions of dollars to charities. Couldn't they make that Englewood Whole Foods part of that charity? Now we have a large empty building that was working... dieing. All the coolers, computers, air systems returned to the streets of Englewood and the gangs. And no more fresh, good food. I was born in the Woodlawn region and we moved to Southshore. We had Jewel, Hi-Lo and Irv's on 70th and Dorchester... don't forget Mrs. Fein's on 70th, just before the Cemetery.

Amazon Books On Southport

The company that killed all the neighborhood bookstores (same couple as Whole Foods in Englewood) closed their bookstore on Southport. Complete lack of respect for the other merchants on Southport, a bustling corridor with a major EL stop. It was not really a bookstore but an advertisement for Amazon, and now more workers can't walk to work.

Microsoft Windows 11, Tech Pollution

The modern PC is and was a great gift for small business. You could as a recording studio actually convert analog data to a digital format, saving money on the old reel to reel tape. At 30 inches per second on a reel of 2" tape you could only get about 2 short songs. No more cutting oil based analog tape with razor blades for edits. The gift of Windows and the PC.

With Windows 11 they beg you to upgrade. But there is a large hitch. A message comes up and it says, your computer may not work on this upgrade. Or, buy a new computer? Can you imagine a large bank with legions of computers. Trash them all. In our network at Sparrow studios it only "liked" one of seven computers? That is not an upgrade, it is a low grade. I can see mountains of PC's crying in the alley, begging for life, once healthy and active. Digital GREED.

Various Forms Of Crackers

If you eat Wheat Thins, Triscuits, Saltine Crackers did you ever wonder why they do not just come in a resealable baggie? No. You are hungry and you open the box, no baggie but a wax paper like container that you have to cut with scissors, or TEAR open. No way to close. Now you have to get a rubber band or laundry clip to seal the bag, or your

treats will turn into warm mush in 5 hours (even with all the bad salt and chemicals), once again Michel, you are right!!!

Jewel Fresh squeezed Orange Juice.

There is nothing like it, after all Minute Maid tastes like an Orange Crush soda pop.

They fill it so full you have to spill some on the counter and it also takes a pair of

pliers to open... that is when it explodes in your hands!

Southport Rolls on!


Joanie Pallatto - Accidental Melody

with Fareed Haque

Thirteen new songs from Pallatto- it's as if you were sitting in the club with the band. Virtuoso guitarist and co-producer Fareed Haque returns! The recording features an acoustic ensemble, with percussionist Eric Hines and Juan Pastor on cajon and percussion, with the acoustic bass of John Christensen. I, (sparrow) get to play on a couple of tracks with Joanie. Our long time friend, writer, author and poet Achy Obejas is writing liner notes. Rounding out the "team" is graphic design from Al Brandtner, and Todd A. Carter on the controls, as engineer and mixer. Like so many studios, we at Sparrow Sound Design had to take a break from studio recording because of the Covid scene. When you think of the history of music in Chicago for the last 45 years... think of Southport Records, a better investment than Bit Coin, Southport is real!


George Freeman and Looking Back over 2022


An Overdue Ovation for George Freeman


Overdue Ovation: It’s Happening Now for George Freeman

A look at the eclectic career of the 95-year-old guitarist

At 95, Chicago-based guitarist George Freeman is among the world’s oldest active jazz musicians. Although he came of musical age in the 1940s and counts figures like Charlie Parker, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins among his influences, his own trajectory has led him from gigging alongside Bird himself through forays into soul jazz, big-band swing, R&B, post-fusion jazz-funk and beyond, while never losing his core identity as a bebopper. Along the way he’s traveled and/or recorded with artists as diverse as Les McCann, Gene Ammons, Wild Bill Davis, Shirley Scott, Buddy Rich, Jackie Wilson, Chicago blues harmonica ace Billy Branch, and AACM bassist Harrison Bankhead, to name just a few.

Freeman was mentored by his older brother Von, a tenor man who went on to become one of the city’s most beloved postbop stylists and whose son Chico has himself garnered an international reputation as a saxophonist. George’s oldest brother, Bruz, also played a significant role in his development before going on to establish himself as a first-call drummer with such artists as Sarah Vaughan and Hampton Hawes. Inspired early on to pick up the guitar, Freeman used to sneak backstage, or peek into an open side door, to watch shows at Chicago clubs like the Rhumboogie on 55th Street. “The first guitar player I saw was T-Bone Walker,” he remembers today. “Rhumboogie is where I saw [him]. He was singing, had that guitar up behind his neck—he was dynamic! Or I thought he was, until my brother [Bruz] brought home a record by Benny Goodman and Charlie Christian. That’s what started [me] out.”

But Christian couldn’t hold Freeman’s attention either. “Bebop, when it hit the scene, it just messed me up. Charlie Parker—I just couldn’t wait to see that man. I prayed on him! I prayed to meet Charlie Parker. My mother took me to church; it was a big day for all the ministers to be there together, and [one of them] said, ‘Anything you want, you ask for it and you will get it.’ I said, ‘I want to work with Charlie Parker!’”

There was still a lot of woodshedding to do, though. Freeman attended DuSable High School, where the music program was run by the legendary Captain Walter Dyett, mentor to several generations of Chicago jazz legends. Although he never actually played in the school band, Freeman drank in the atmosphere (“At that time, everything was jazz, jazz, jazz”), and by the time he was in his mid-teens, he’d gotten together with classmates like Johnny Griffin and begun to sit in at various venues around town.

By the late ’40s, he was leading a group he remembers as “the first bebop band come out of Chicago. It wasn’t a house band; just gigs, little band, had a singer. When Lester Young came to Chicago, I played at the Pershing Ballroom with [him]. I played ‘D.B. Blues’ [from Young’s 1946 Aladdin album Lester Blows Again] in front of him. He just couldn’t believe it, and he came behind me and swung that thing out! Yeah, that was some heck of a days.”

In 1947, Griffin and trumpeter Joe Morris, who’d worked together in Lionel Hampton’s band, formed a group of their own, and Griffin recruited his old classmate to join them in New York. Specializing in the kind of danceable small-group jazz that was rapidly becoming known as “rhythm & blues,” they recorded a series of sides for the Manor label, one of which, “Boogie Woogie Joe,” featured Freeman’s first recorded solo: a torrid break that, in retrospect, sounds like a clarion call of the future (or, as one critic has suggested, “the first scintillating guitar workout in rock history”). Stretching what were then the accepted boundaries of harmonic, melodic, and sonic convention, he sounded bent on taking the guitar to levels of ecstasy that had previously been broached only by proto-R&B saxophone screamers like Illinois Jacquet. You can hear it on Joe Morris: Best of the Early Years (Goldenlane, 2014).

A dispute over composer’s credit for “Lowe Groovin’,” another Morris release, soon sent Freeman back home, where his prayers were answered in 1950 (or, according to some accounts, 1951) when Bird recruited him, Bruz, tenor saxophonist Claude McLin, pianist Chris Anderson, and bassist Leroy Jackson for a gig at the Pershing. Freeman remembers that when Bird arrived, he wasn’t wearing a necktie. Von, who wouldn’t have missed this event for the world, took George’s tie off his neck and gave it to Bird; a photo was taken, which now adorns the wall behind the stage at Chicago’s world-renowned Jazz Showcase.

Freeman was in awe, of course (“He was just the epitome—you want to be with the greatest”). But, as evinced on Charlie Parker: One Night in Chicago, released on Savoy in 1980 (actually a corrective to an earlier Savoy release, 1961’s Charlie Parker: An Evening at Home with the Bird, which erroneously billed the set as having been recorded at a private party), he didn’t let it overwhelm him. He sounds fully in command of his instrument, with the directional linearity he’d honed listening to sax players spiced by bebop dexterity and harmonic adventurousness. As he remembers it, Bird didn’t give his sidemen many instructions, although at one point, when Parker took the bandstand earlier than expected and found himself waiting for his guitarist, he told the others, “No, we don’t start ’til George gets here”—a moment etched indelibly into Freeman’s memory: “Now you know what that did for me. I haven’t been the same since!”

Nonetheless, he was still restless, and within a few years he’d decided once again to head out of town. Again, hope proved a cruel mistress, but he did come tantalizingly close to the big time. Sarah Vaughan was looking for a guitar player: “She said, ‘George, I want to put you on the front line with me.’” Unfortunately, Freeman had a run-in with one of Vaughan’s sidemen who, as it turned out, was also the band’s straw boss. The latter man got his revenge by giving Freeman an incorrect date for the tour’s start; he showed up for the first gig only to find that Vaughan and her troupe had departed days earlier.

It was also during this time that Freeman had a more successful hookup with soul star Jackie Wilson. Yet again, it was a stylistic leap—but on the other hand, at least as early as “Boogie Woogie Joe” he’d shown himself adept at spicing bebop-honed technical facility with rhythm-and-blues brio, a gift that would soon make him invaluable to soul-jazz bandleaders Wild Bill Davis and Richard “Groove” Holmes, with whom he worked in quick succession. Around 1969, Freeman reunited with Gene Ammons, a pairing that lasted until Ammons’ death in 1974. Through the ’60s and ’70s he appeared on a series of acclaimed recordings with Holmes, Ammons, and Jimmy McGriff. But not until 1971, when Introducing George Freeman Live with Charlie Earland Sitting In appeared on the Giant Step label, did an actual George Freeman recording come to be. (Delmark had recorded him a year or two earlier, but the resulting album, Birth Sign, didn’t hit the streets until 1972.)

Why did it take so long? Freeman believes that the very eclecticism that had held him in such good stead as a first-call sideman proved to be an Achilles heel when forging an independent recording career: “They couldn’t classify me! I was playing the blues one day, then bebop, then I’d turn around and play a ballad, I was swinging—I was a mess. They couldn’t figure me out at all. I couldn’t figure myself out! Only thing, I had to work. You got to make some money to pay the rent.”

Finally, in 1995, Freeman signed with Southport Records, beginning what has become a 27-year association with the label and setting the stage for a remarkable late-career renaissance. To date he’s had five releases on Southport—including the new compilation Everybody Say Yeah!, which showcases a previously unreleased version of “Summertime” featuring label co-owner Joanie Pallatto on vocals, as well as a fresh take on “Perfume,” which previously appeared on guitarist Mike Allemana’s 2017 release Live at the Green Mill, also featuring Freeman—as well as several albums on other labels. It’s a remarkable tale of perseverance and triumph, all the more so given that Freeman is still in command of his chops; he recently celebrated his 95th birthday at Chicago’s Green Mill, fronting a band that included Allemana, Hammond organist Pete Benson, and longtime musical compatriot Bernard Purdie on drums. He remains determinedly optimistic about the future.

“I didn’t know I was old, ’til one day somebody told me!” he jokes. “It’s amazing what’s happening now. It’s something that God gives you. I think He gives you the creativity, the rhythm, the soul—but you’ve got to have the concept. Everything seems to be falling into place.”

Recommended Listening

Richard “Groove” Holmes: Les McCann Presents the Dynamic Jazz Organ of Richard “Groove” Holmes (Pacific Jazz, 1961)

George Freeman: Introducing George Freeman Live with Charlie Earland Sitting In (Giant Step, 1971)

George Freeman: Birth Sign (Delmark, 1972)

Johnny Griffin: Bush Dance (Galaxy, 1979)

Charlie Parker: One Night in Chicago (Savoy, 1980)

George Freeman: Everybody Say Yeah! (Southport, 2022)


David Whiteis is a critic, journalist, and author based in Chicago. He is the recipient of the Blues Foundation’s 2001 Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Achievement in Journalism. His books include Southern Soul-Blues (U. of Illinois Press, 2013) and Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories (U. Of Illinois Press, 2006). He is currently at work completing a book on contemporary Chicago blues and a co-written autobiography of the late soul singer Denise LaSalle.


Southport Records A Brief History

The Southport Records Story....

"Southport Records prides itself on taking risks" Neil Tesser, The New York Times

Southport Records is a Chicago based record label and division of Sparrow Sound Design Recording Studio, founded in 1977.

Bradley Parker-Sparrow is a prolific pianist, composer, producer, recording engineer and label owner. He co-owns Southport Records with his partner and wife, singer/composer/producer/engineer Joanie Pallatto.

In 1977, at the age of 23, Sparrow established Sparrow Sound Design Recording Studio, where many artists have recorded since, including The Art Ensemble of Chicago,Yusef Lateef, and Richie Cole. In 1979 he opened his own recording label, Sparrow Sound Design Records, which is dedicated to documenting Chicago's versatile and fruitful jazz scene. Sparrow Sound Design was one of the first minority/musician run and owned recording studios in the United States, recording numerous artists and labels that include AECO Records, Concord Jazz, Flying Fish, Universal, SteepleChase and Delmark Records. To this date Sparrow Sound Design recording studio has one of the largest collection of vintage Neumann and AKG tube microphones in the world.

In 1982 Sparrow married singer Joanie Pallatto (she joined the Sparrow band!) Together they moved Sparrow Sound Design from North Dayton street to 3501 N. Southport in Chicago, re-branding the record label "Southport Records."

Southport Records is one of the first musician/minority/female owned Record labels in the United States with over 150 LP's, cassettes, CDs and films in print. The focus has been new music from Chicago. This includes all forms of Jazz, Latin, Blues, Modern Classical-New Music and Ethnic.

Artists on the Southport Records label include:

Bob Acri-April Aloisio-Fred Anderson-Tatsu Aoki-Eden Atwood-Bruce Bendinger-Don Bennett-Alexandra Billings-Joel Brandon-Wagner Campos-Rich Cantú-Francesco Crosara-Katherine Davis-Eugenia Elliott-Josie Falbo-Mark Fechner-Roderick Ferguson-Harold Fethe-King Fleming-David Flippo-George Flynn-Chico Freeman-George Freeman-Von Freeman-Paulinho Garcia-Dave Gordon-Scott Holman-Darling Instigatah-Joseph Jarman-Carlos Johnson-Beaky Johnston-Ken Karlson-Phil Kidder-Neil Kristie-Elijah Levi-Bobby Lewis-Martha Lorin-Malachi Favors Maghostut-John E. Magnan-Michael Mason-Susan May-Corky McClerkin-Dan McIntyre-Marie Michuda-Miss Midori-Ilhan Mimaroglu-Janice Misurell-Mitchell-Roscoe Mitchell-Christiana Moffa-Famoudou Don Moye-Tim O'Dell-Dave Onderdonk-Joanie Pallatto-John Paris-Dave Pavkovic-Willie Pickens-Frank Portolese-Hal Russell-Rob Ryndak-Paul Scea-Bobby

Schiff-Damon Short-Bradley Parker-Sparrow-Ron Surace-Linda Tate-Andy Tecson-Steve Thomas-TV Pow-Tomas De Utrera-Marshall Vente-Mark Walker-Kurt Westerberg-Enoch Williamson-Francis Wong-Libby York-Max Zbiral-Teller; and guest artists Mike Allemana, Ruben Alvarez, Billy Branch, John Devlin, Bob Dorough, Luiz Ewerling, Fareed Haque, Redd Holt, Howard Levy, Alejo Poveda and Eldee Young.

With Music, Bradley Parker-Sparrow and Joanie Pallatto, Partners/Southport Records

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