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Tim Sparks

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Born: October 31, 1954    Primary Instrument: Guitar

Self taught by ear on an old Stella flat top during a bout of encephalitis that kept him out of school for a year. He taught himself to play the music he heard around him: traditional country blues and the gospel his grandmother played on piano in a small church in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

At age 14, Tim was nominated by a musically astute uncle for a scholarship at the prestigious North Carolina School of the Arts. There he studied the classics with Segovia protege Jesus Silva while continuing to play all kinds of music, increasingly turning to classic jazz for inspiration. He adapted compositions by Jelly Roll Morton, Scott Joplin, and Fats Waller to the guitar, frequently reducing piano arrangements to their essence. Early influences were Doc Watson, Arthur Smith, and most importantly Duck Baker, who opened up a horizon of possibilities for fingerstyle guitar....
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Acoustic Guitar Magazine ”Tim Sparks has created an instantly recognizable style without relying on unorthodox techniques or weird tunings. Merging his classical and jazz backgrounds and effortless chops with a keen interest in Eastern European music, he stormed onto the fingerstyle scene with his debut CD, The Nutcracker Suite, which featured his arrangement of Tchaikovsky's classic as well as a collection of Balkan folk songs. Spark's '95 release, Guitar Bazaar, is a masterpiece of acoustic world music”

Folk Roots Magazine Great Britain ”Sublime take on Klezmer and Sephardic standards veering between bluesy, flamenco-inflected finger-picking and Joao Gilberto. Gorgeous”

Sing Out! Magazine ”Tim Sparks is a brilliant fingerstyle guitarist -- he won the 1993 National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship -- who has turned much of his attention to traditional Jewish music. Whether he's adapting melodies from the Ashkenazic/klezmer tradition, or from the Judeo-Spanish Sephardic tradition, it is a joy to hear these beautiful interpretations”

DownBeat ”For his second Tzadik album, Sparks intelligently and lovingly arranges some of his favorite songs from the Oriental, Sephardic and Yiddish canons of Jewish music for his guitar and Sparks conveys the pathos of the Diaspora in his music. 5 stars”

Time Out New York ”Sparks playing is fluid and consistently beautiful. Truly masterful”

Seattle Weekly ”Any way you look at him--as Frisell without the schizophrenic effects or Zorn without a sax--Tim Sparks delivers a jazz guitar classic with Tanz. Klezmer-fueled improv at its best”

20th Century Guitar ”Tim Sparks is not a mere guitarist; he's a musician. In fact, at times he seems to transcend mere music and become a magician”

Guitar Nine Reviews ”Sparks playing is stirring and technically superb, as he embellishes the beautiful melodies with harmonies and a sense of excitement”

Acoustic Guitar Magazine ”Fingerstyle Magic”

Amazon.com ”Sparks's solo renditions have an awe-inducing power. He cherishes not only each note, even when they're coming with flashing speed, but he equally indulges each bent-string twist and turn”

Minneapolis Star and Tribune ”Sparks reduces these complex classics to their harmonic essence, allowing the depth and melodic beauty to be felt in new ways through his gently dazzling fingerstyle technique”

Guitar Player Magazine ”Whether thumbing a bass-note drone against bluesy double-stops and sitar like bends, plucking sheets of rippling arpeggios, or playing counterpoint lines at breakneck speed, Sparks is remarkably adventurous-and that's what separates him from the pack. There are many skilled solo-acoustic guitarists making CDs today, but few can match Sparks' verve and intensity”

Guitar Player Magazine ”Fresh, exotic, and totally cool”

Berlin Morning Post ”Sparks shows his tremendous versatility moving between Jazz and the classics”

Dirty Linen Magazine Sparks is an extraordinary guitarist”

“You can hear Tim Sparks think. He plays by choice not habit: ideas not licks. I've heard him do this on guitars so badly intonated, they wouldn't make a good ashtray; the same guitars - I remember a piece called Blues on Bartok Street - are guitars in Tim's hands. Beautiful. I'm Tim Sparks' biggest fan. He's really one of the best musicians I know.” LEO KOTTKE

Recordings 1993 The Nutcracker Suite w/ Balkan Dreams- Acoustic Music Records 1996 Guitar Bazaar- Acoustic Music Records 1998 One String Leads to Another- Acoustic Music Records 1999 Neshamah- Tzadik 2000 Tanz- Tzadik 2002 At the Rebbe's Table-Tzadik 2003 Masada Guitars with Bill Frisell and Marc Ribot-Tzadik 2007 Roots, Rags and Blues- Truefire DVD 2008 Sidewalk Blues- ToneWood 2009 Little Princess-Tzadik

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Primary Instrument:
Guitar

Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.

Credentials/Background:
Taught four years at the University of Minnesota 2005 to 2009. Taught at guitar camps like Winnipeg Folk Fest, Acoustic Guitar Seminars and Swananoa. Available for clinics, workshops.

Clinic/Workshop Information:
I specialize in Fingerstyle guitar do a hands on clinic focusing on GEDCA system of chord shape/scale/arpeggio connections. I also cover jazz chord voicings and melodic minor and sub modes corresponding to Major, Minor and Dominant 7th chord shapes. I can also teach world music technques including latin-bossa nova, balkan and middle-eastern and how these apply to my Radical Jewish Culture projects for Tzadik.

I endorse Collings and Hoffman guitars, Ultra Sound Amps and John Pearse Strings.

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