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.
AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow