Organist Beau Sasser and drummer Bill Carbone spent several years as the other two-thirds of the late legendary soul-jazz guitarist Melvin Sparks’ trio. At first, most nights were marked by Sparks’ distinctive brand of constructive criticism, both on stage and off. But Beau and Bill listened and learned, and soon the three developed an undeniable chemistry.

Sparks was always planning for the future, and he frequently played the band demos of songs he wanted to record or other tracks—everything from Jimmy Smith to Zapp and Roger—that he thought would be good live. Sparkplug is Sasser and Carbone’s way of paying tribute to Sparks by performing the songs that he wrote and on which he played during his 45 year career as well as imagining what else he might do if he was still here.

Melvin liked it funky, and the addition of saxophonist/EWI/vocoder whiz David Davis and percussionist Jamemurrell Stanley—both frequent guests on Melvin Sparks Band gigs—definitely helps keep it that way. Because Melvin Sparks is irreplaceable, Sparkplug will not have a permanent guitarist. Instead, the group will feature various guitarists that each pay tribute in a unique way. Thus far the group has worked with Johnny Trama (Jesse Dee, Nate Wilson), Steve Fell (Akashic Record), Ryan Hommel (Play on Brother Band, Hormel Chili Commercials), and Tim Palmieri (Kung Fu, The Breakfast).