Melvin Sparks

What You Hear Is What You Get

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What You Hear Is What You Get, guitarist Melvin Sparks' first session as a bandleader since 1997's I'm a Gittar Player, finds the guitarist in fine form, showing off his soul-jazz licks with funky aplomb. Since the release of I'm a Gittar Player, Sparks' native style underwent a huge renaissance, especially in New York City. John Scofield's sessions with Medeski, Martin & Wood, Soulive's recordings, and a variety of New York club acts helped find a new audience for the form. From these ranks, Sparks draws Topaz, a saxophone player (and leader of an eponymous unit) who blows on three cuts, including "The Governor," "Funky Good Time," and "Money." Also joining Sparks' quintet for a trio of tracks is his old friend, organist Reuben Wilson. The music is restrained and tasteful throughout. Sparks' playing is crisp and spot-on, though it rarely ventures into experimental territory. If Sparks comes across as hopelessly lodged in the past during some moments, it more often feels like, simply, he never went away.

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