Melvin_sparks_span3
September 2006

Melvin Sparks
Groove On Up
Savant

Melvin Sparks’ third album for Savant melds a greasy organ-jazz aesthetic with ’70s-style soul and R&B, although the opening “MyKia’s Dance” sounds like Grant Green sitting in with early Santana. Jerry Z and Paul Wolstencroft share organ billing; their churning chords and pumping bass lines rescue the date from pop-jazz at a few points. There are no horns, and Sparks is the significant soloist—a veritable fountain of clean, bop-rooted eighth-note lines, infectious but unvarying in attack.

Sparks’ originals range from the vamp-based “Cranberry Sunshine” and “Hump,” to the lyrical “Groove On Up” and “I Want to Say Thanks,” to the more involved line of the closing “U Got Mel.” He also throws in two soul classics, “She’s a Bad Mama Jama” and “If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It),” the latter featuring vocalist Nikki Armstrong. Another original, “Ooh Girl,” features vocalist Oscar Wright, who worked with Sparks once upon a time in the World Famous Upsetters. In the notes, Sparks writes about reuniting with the singer in 2005 after 40 years. Wright’s gravelly timbre recalls Jon Hendricks; his delivery is wobbly but he gives 110 percent.

Originally published in September 2006
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