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Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Melvin Sparks, Influential Soul-Jazz Guitarist, Dead at 64 - Spinner
Melvin Sparks, an acclaimed jazz-soul session guitarist and fixture in the jam-band scene, died March 13 at his Mount Vernon, N.Y. home, according to the New York Times. The 64-year-old's wife said he had battled diabetes and high blood pressure.
Born in Houston, Sparks grew up around music and got his first guitar at age 11. After working as a teenager in R&B bands -- including a stint in the Upsetters, a group founded by Little Richard -- he moved to New York and became a session player for Blue Note and Prestige.
While working for those two famed labels, Sparks played on records by musicians including Jack McDuff and Chares Earland. In 1970, he released his first of three albums, on Prestige 'Sparks!' In total, he released 10 albums as a leader, with 2005's 'Groove on Up' being his latest. In the '90s and '00s, his playing found new fans on the jam-band scene, thanks to more session work and performances with bands like Galactic, Soulive and Phish's Mike Gordon.
Sparks is survived by his wife, Judy Hassan, four daughters, a son and 13 grandchildren.