Melvin Sparks developed his signature sound while performing with some of the best artists in the genre of funk jazz. - melvinsparks.com

Groove that's smooth

Melvin Sparks has played guitar with some of jazz's greatest musicians for more than 30 years, including David "Fathead" Newman, Lou Donaldson, Hank Crawford, Reuben Wilson and John Patton, among many others.

As a session recording artist for the Blue Note and Prestige record labels, Sparks laid down his signature guitar work on about 100 albums without ever taking the spotlight — including saxophonist Donaldson's "Everything I Play is Funky" in 1970 and "Hot Dog" in 1969. During this time he defined the jazz-guitar sound of a generation. It wasn't called jazz; it was musicians playing jazz on top of a funky beat. Today, whether the sound is called soul jazz, old-school acid jazz, funk jazz or whatever, Sparks is credited as the originator of the genre.

Sparks and his current band, "Big" Paul Wolstencroft on Hammond B3 organ and Shawn "Doublefoot" Hill on drums, will perform at 9 p.m. Friday, June 22, at the Mobius, 281 Fourth St., Ashland.

Sparks went on to record many albums of his own, and his 2006 release, "Groove On Up" on Savant Records, shows us that he is still the funkmeister supreme. Sparks conjures up feel-good themes and his flurries of single notes on the album, as in "Mykia's Dance," "This is It" and the blues-rock composition "If It Don't Fit." The songs are a collection of originals and bouncing reinterpretations of others.

Sparks is still a sought-after studio player by both new and old talents. He performs with other artists of the genre such as organist Leon Spencer Jr. and drummers Mike Clark and Idris Mohammed, and he brings his guitar wizardry to younger bands such as funk groups Galactic, The Greyboy Allstars in Southern California, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Derek Trucks (formerly of the Allman Brothers) and Robert Walter's 20th Congress.

Tickets to the show at the Mobius cost $10 in advance and $12 the day of the show. Student tickets cost $10. See themobius.com or call 488-8894.

Share This Story