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Album Review

Tim Sparks gets to the essence of traditional Jewish song by addressing a stellar selection of Hasidic and Sephardic tunes on his solo acoustic guitar. Sparks sticks closely to the melodies, altering tempos and adding flourishes here and there, but always respectfully, resulting in some lovely renditions that soothe the soul. There are a multitude of influences at work, from folk song to Eastern European dance music, each of which the guitarist exploits to full advantage. Some of the odd meters are difficult to play (for example, "Los Caminos de Sirkeci" is based on a 3+2/8 dance rhythm), but Sparks masters them and makes it sound easy. The tempo of the popular song "Shalom Aleichem" is slowed to a snail's pace, giving it new life with this unusual interpretation. Similarly, other pieces are altered carefully in minor ways to produce slightly different perspectives. Sometimes the guitar transforms a piece into something different than it was originally, and since most of the songs were used historically for dancing or singing, the attempt to turn them into instrumentals might have been expected to be a difficult task. Sparks, though, seems undeterred, and he squeezes every ounce of melodic sophistication from a song's essence, resulting in a delightful and authentic display that while impressive is never overdone.


Genre: World

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Guitar virtuoso Tim Sparks was born October 31, 1954, in Winston-Salem, NC, taking his first music lessons from his moonshiner uncle; while attending the North Carolina School of the Arts, he also studied classical guitar with Andrés Segovia protégé Jesus Silva. Upon graduating in 1973, Sparks went on tour with an R&B band, and during a stop in Minneapolis he opted to move to the city permanently; there he joined the vintage jazz combo Rio Nido, which recorded albums including I Like to Riff, Hi...
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Neshamah, Tim Sparks
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