Tonight: Tim Sparks with Chris Bates, Jay Epstein at Icehouse MPLS
Friday, March 22, 2019
Tim Sparks, Guitar
Chris Bates, Bass
Jay Epstein, Drums
2528 Nicollet Ave,
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Phone: (612) 276-6523
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tim Sparks studied guitar at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. He studied the classics with Segovia protege Jesus Silva while adapting compositions by Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, and Fats Waller to the guitar. Early influences were Doc Watson, Arthur Smith, and Duck Baker, who opened up a horizon of possibilities for fingerstyle guitar.
After a stint on the road with a Chicago-based rhythm and blues band, Sparks arrived in Minnesota where he soon established himself as a journeyman guitarist and session player. He recording three albums with the seminal vocal jazz ensemble Rio Nido, and arranged Carla Bley’s composition “Jesus Maria” for Leo Kottke.
Sparks also found time to revive his interest in classical music, adapting Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite to the guitar, a work that has been cited as a significant contribution to solo guitar literature. For Sparks it was a labor of love that earned him the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas in 1993.
A sojourn abroad inspired his interest in European and Mediterranean styles, particularly the music of the Balkans. Upon his return to Minnesota, Sparks began playing guitar in Greek, Klezmer, and Sephardic groups. This work culminated in the recording of Sparks’ Balkan Dreams Suite, a recording hailed by Guitar Player Magazine as “an exhilarating, odd-meter minefield inspired by Near Eastern music” and “an important recording from a gifted composer, arranger, and performer.”
Sparks’ work came to the attention of John Zorn, the saxophonist, composer, and curator of Tzadik Records in New York and thereby led to a new cycle of compositions inspired by traditional Jewish melodies. His recordings garnered Downbeat Magazine’s highest praise. In recent years, Sparks’ musical focus has come full circle, returning to the country blues and classic jazz that served as a springboard for his worldwide guitar explorations. He toured with Dolly Parton in 2005 and has contributed to the Truefire Acoustic Guitar Workshop.