This Friday and Saturday, Soulive and Karl Denson will be paying tribute to the late Melvin Sparks, by playing their latest collaboration Spark!, as well as some other choice cuts from their repertoire, at City Winery in NYC.  The album, which was recorded just a few days after Sparks’ passing in March of 2011, due to complications of diabetes, also happens to be very closely named after the 1970 debut album of the late artists’, titled Sparks! 

The title track, which is also the only original cut on the album, sees Denson and the members of Soulive teaming up once again, for what could arguably be their very best collaboration to date.  This is some deep, cosmic, groove-laden jazz that takes you back to the early-70’s CTI era.  Sparks!, which was released on June 19th, features Denson and Soulive selecting some real old-school covers to take on, and bringing their own flavor to.  Yusef Lateef’s “Nubian Lady” is extremely impressive, with Neal Evans bringing some heavy organ-funk to the table, while Denson’s tenor and flute-work takes you away into a dream state.  Freddie Hubbard’s “Povo” sees Eric Krasno doing what he does best, which is laying down some straight-up intellectual fretwork on his Ibanez.  Alan Evans’ timing is as impeccable as ever on this album, and you can truly comprehend his penchant for jazz-drumming on Art Farmer’s “Soulsides”.

Melvin Sparks is one of the greatest acid jazz guitarists in history, making his start with Hank Ballard and the Midnighters while still in high school.  He then went on to play with a band called the Upsetters, which was started by Little Richard, and backed the likes of Marvin Gaye and Curtis Mayfield.  The relationship between Sparks, Denson and Soulive isn’t exactly far-fetched.  Denson asked Sparks to open for the Greyboy Allstars on their East Coast tour back in 1994, and brought him in to the studio in 2001 to record on Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe’s Dance Lesson No. 2, while Krasno calls Sparks “one of the greatest guitar players of our time, and the coolest dude I knew.”

The City Winery shows are sure to be unique, to say the least.  With a venue that is perfect for intimate shows like these, all that is left to do is order a nice bottle of red or white, take a seat, relax, and enjoy the experience.  There is a limited amount of tickets still available for both shows.  To purchase tickets, click here:


For a listen to the album’s title track “Sparks”, check it out here:


To purchase the album, which is also available on vinyl, click on this link: