Melvin Sparks – I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player (1997)

Melvin Sparks - I'm A 'Gittar' Player (1997)
Artist: Melvin Sparks
Album: I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player
Genre: Jazz-Funk, Soul-Jazz, Smooth Jazz
Label: Cannonball Records
Released: 1997
Quality: FLAC (tracks+.cue)
Tracklist:
Mr. Texan (07:08)
Balcony (05:14)
Jiggy (06:29)
Boogie Street (05:28)
I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player (05:35)
Sparkling (03:36)
Taste The Flavor (04:19)
All Day, All Night (04:32)
Get Down Tonite (04:22)

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Guitarist Melvin Sparks will sound familiar to those who like the fatback soul-jazz of the late 60s and early 70s. That music has new life today as “acid jazz” and Sparks was a significant catalyst in its sound. He’s ignited some of the better funk of Lou Donaldson ( Pretty Things and Cosmos ), Sonny Stitt ( Turn It On ), Charles Earland ( Black Talk ), Lonnie Smith ( Think ), Hank Crawford (the recent Tight ) and Rusty Bryant (Sparks’ best-ever solo is in the title track to Bryant’s 1970 album Soul Liberation ). He also released three solid solo disks on Prestige in 1970 and 1971 ( Sparks, Sparkplug and Akilah ), two excellent dates on Eastbound ( Texas Twister in 1973 and ’75 in 1975) and Sparkling on Muse in 1981.

I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player is a welcome return to center stage for Melvin Sparks. It presents him the way he’s meant to be heard, in mostly blues, funk or boogaloo modes. Sparks remains a hell of an interesting player; engaging with bright, fluid lines, well-placed twangs and catchy ostinatos. He’s rawer and more deliberate than George Benson, but, like his nearest rival, Jimmy Ponder, really comes out of Grant Green’s ‘soul bag’ — and it’s best to consider Sparks in this context.

Problem with I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player is, despite Ron Levy’s terrific production and first-rate playing by the leader, nothing really stands out. Sparks ain’t doing anything here he hasn’t done just as well elsewhere. He hits highs on the bluesy “Balcony,” the Latin-twang of “Jiggy,” (featuring Pucho) the soulful “Boogie Street” and “Sparkling” — but he’s done this kinda thing before. If you like Sparks’ playing – and it’s really hard to dislike — you’ll appreciate the common ground. One minus, though: unnecessary vocals on the Texas grind of “All Day, All Night” and the crap-rap on an otherwise good blues version of K.C. & The Sunshine Band’s “Get Down Tonight.”

I’m A ‘Gittar’ Player won’t change the world. But it’s good to hear a good player doing what he does best.
By DOUGLAS PAYNE

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