Sparks is the second release from the Columbus, OH-based fusion trio Charged Particles. Largely based around keyboardist Caleb Hutslar's deft synth sounds, Charged Particles' overall approach harkens back to the mid-'70s heyday of groups like Weather Report and Return to Forever, proving that "real" fusion is alive and well. In fact, Hutslar's style will pleasantly remind many fans of Chick Corea. Similarly, electric bassist Mike Rak displays a kinship with artists such as Jaco Pastorious and John Patitucci. This is not the most progressive jazz you can find, but it does feature a nice blend of catchy melodies and challenging chord progressions. This is especially true of Hutslar's compositions, which demonstrate how smooth jazz does not have to eschew complex improvisation. Also notable are Rak's "The Eleventh Commandment," which features contrapuntal melodies over an odd meter, and his "Evening Street," a propulsive minor-key bossa.
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AllMusic Review by Matt Collar