Melvin Sparks Guitar Celebration
Tuesday 07/01/03
The Jazz Standard

On this first day of July 2003, a night for Melvin Sparks, put on by the New York Blues and Jazz Society, a fundraiser to assist Melvin in purchasing a new guitar, as his Gibson L5 was stolen earlier this year.

What a night it was! Rodney Jones, Bob DeVos, Doug Munro, Dave Stryker, Randy Johnston, Grant Green Jr, Reuben Wilson, Joe Krown, Jeremy Baum, Sue Williams, Eric Addeo, Mike Clark, Joe Hrbek, George Papageorge, George Sluppick and last minute addition, the legendary Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, all came with their game faces on, to give their all for their dear friend, Melvin Sparks!

And did they ever put on a show. Melvin and three quarters of his Melvin Sparks Band (sans Joe Hrbek) opened the night in Melvin’s typical funky mode, ala his 2003 Savant release, “What you hear is what you get”. The nights first guest Doug Munro, who can be heard as a sideman on Lonnie Smith’s, “Boogaloo to Beck” jammed on for a couple of songs with Melvin, George Papageorge, and drummer George Sluppick, Bob DeVos whose just released “DeVos Groove Guitar” on the Bluesleaf label, relplaced Munro, and added some intensity to the already percolating set. Gatemouth’s B3’r, and solo artist Joe Krown took over from Papageorge who had to make another gig, and really added some extra slick to the eve.

About a hour in to the show, Melvin jumped off to take a break and let Randy Johnston jam on with DeVos, Krown, and Fins drummer Eric Addeo, who played a major role, by booking the Jazz Standard for this evenings festivities. Mike Clark replaced Addeo, adding some Headhunter grit and funk as Reuben Wilson took over the B3 from Joe Krown, laying down some of the most memorable classic jazz/funk of the eve.

But sitting on the sidelines was the historic Gatemouth Brown, whom I had the honor to interview two days prior to this eve. During my interview with Gate, he mentioned he had this evening off, so I figured why not ask him to come down and help support a fellow Texan, Melvin Sparks? Thankfully Gate said Yes! So Joe Krown, the always outstanding Rodney Jones, Eric Addeo, and Gate went on with a superb Gatemouth Brown forty-five minute set. Earlier that day, when I had gotten the confirm that Gate would be playing, I called Melvin to ask him to get ready to do some Okie Dokie Stompin with Gate. Melvin said “wow, when I was growing up on Texas, if you wanted to play the clubs you had to do Gates classic Okie Doke Stomp”. But Melvin told me he had not played the tune in almost thrity years! Melvin said he would start practicing Okie Dokie ASAP, and good thing he did. As Gate called out for Melvin to perform “Okie Dokie Stomp”, which hurled Gate on to fifty plus years of international fame, whose career started in the late forties. It was amazing. Looking out in to the crowd, everyone was smiling, Melvin was beaming, and if that was not enough, at the end of Okie Dokie, Gate broke in to, Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk”, which sent me and everyone in to the room in to a tizzy. What a set, thank you Gate!

But we were not done yet. As Gatemouth exited, Rodney Jones called out for Melvin, Ron Levy, and Mike Clark, and really started to funk it up big time. Rodney was replaced by Dave Stryker, whose “Blue to the Bone III”, which was on my top 10 best recordings for 2002. Stryker’s very imaginative guitar lines were quite impressive, working perfectly in synch with Melvin, Jeremy Baum on B3, Mike Clark, and the always solid Sue Williams on electric bass. It was getting close to closing time, and Stryker gave the guitar seat to that The Master of Groove, Grant Green Jr. This unit really brought down the house, with Melvin appropriately taking out the final solo of the eve, in a high speed frenzy that was nothing short of brilliant.

Special thanks to the man who signed Melvin to his first recording contract at Prestige Records, WBGO’s Bob Porter, who gave a glorious on stage honoring speech to Melvin.

Behind the scenes thanks to: Eric Addeo who booked the Jazz Standard. To Jeremy Baum who at the eleventh hour saved the B3 day, by donating his organ for the eve. To NYBJS committee chair Nikki Armstrong, who rescued Jeremy and his B3 on the West Side Highway. To the entire staff at the Jazz Standard, especially Seth Abramson. To all of the above mentioned musicians who gave their time. To the music fans who came out to support Melvin. To Randy Veraldo and Glenn Scharback who picked up and returned Gatemouth Brown to his hotel. To Peach, for her kind donation all the way from California, lol. And thank you to everyone involved, that I might have forgotten, for making this evening, a night I will never forget!

Bob Putignano, President
NY Blues & Jazz Society
Radio Host @ WFDU’s, “Sounds of Blue"