Tim Sparks-The Nutcracker Suite
When Tim Sparks won the National Fingerstyle Championship with his amazing solo guitar rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in 1993, the critics heralded this recording as a significant contribution to the existing body of guitar literature. For Sparks, it was the natural evolution in a musical journey dedicated to the adaptation of all forms of music to the guitar. Sparks brings all the charm of the Nutcracker Suite to the solo guitar in this unique and wonderful edition.
Tim’s Balkan Dreams Suite, also included in this recording, features guitar adaptations of traditional folk music from Southeastern Europe, along with The Blues on Bartok Street, one of Sparks’ most haunting original compositions.
Tim Sparks has been redefining the acoustic guitar repertoire since he won the National Fingerpicking Championship in 1993 with a ground breaking arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Sparks continues to surprise, challenge, and thrill audiences with his diverse repertoire and stunning technique. Equally at home with Country Blues, Jazz or World Music, Sparks' extraordinary ability has earned him an international reputation as one of the most innovative guitarists working today.
Trained by Segovia protegee Jesus Silva at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Sparks has continued to study classical music throughout his career. His adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite has been cited as a significant contribution to solo guitar literature. For Sparks it was a labor of love that earned him the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship in Winfield, Kansas in 1993
His wide travels inspired his interest in European and Mediterranean styles, particularly the music of the Balkans. Upon his return to Minnesota, Sparks immersed himself in the ethnic music scene, performing on Oud and Saz in Middle Eastern ensembles and playing guitar in Greek, Klezmer, and Sephardic groups. This work culminated in the recording of Sparks' Balkan Dreams Suite, a remarkable collection of odd-meter guitar arrangements.
Sparks' work came to the attention of John Zorn, the saxophonist, composer, and curator of Tzadik Records in New York and thereby led to a new cycle of compositions inspired by traditional Jewish melodies. Neshamah (1999) is a solo effort; Tanz, (2000) which garnered Downbeat Magazine's highest praise, five stars; and At the Rebbe's Table (2002). In 2003 Tzadik released Masada Guitars, featuring interpretations of John Zorn's music by Tim, Bill Frisell, and Marc Ribot.
In recent years, Sparks' musical focus has come full circle, returning to the country blues and classic jazz that served as a springboard for his worldwide guitar explorations. He toured with Dolly Parton in 2005 and recorded Roots, Rags and Blues for Truefire Acoustic Guitar Workshop.
Sparks released Sidewalk Blues on the ToneWood label in February 2009 and recorded Little Princess, his fifth CD for Tzadik, in New York in 2009. Post-Modern Fingerstyle Guitar was released on Truefire in 2011.
Tim is currently at work on a collection of solo guitar adaptations of the early 20th Century Russian composers Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich scheduled for release in 2013.
“An amazing technician with elements of guitarists Leo Kottke, John Fahey, Lenny Breau, Andres Segovia and Doc Watson, Sparks stands alone in his ability to arrange and abstract worldly elements into a cohesive guitar-based approach.” -
Eliot Simon All About Jazz New York
“I mean it as the greatest of praise when I say that it doesn't even sound like guitar playing- Sparks is one of those rare players, like Bill Frisell, who transcends the inherited vocabulary of the instrument to create something other than guitar music with it – something both simpler and more complex. In a word, music, and not just any music, but music of multi-dimensionality, music that shimmers and sustains and speaks directly to the soul of a listener.”
Seth Rogovy, Berkshire Jewish Voice
“After listening to the CD, I must admit that Sparks catches the essence of the music in a wonderful way.
For the advanced player, this is an excellent edition to reap the rewards of The Nutcracker Suite”
Classical Guitar Magazine
“I remember a piece called Blues On Bartok Street – beautiful – I'm Tim Sparks' biggest fan. His stuff is very difficult
to play but it doesn't sound difficult. I think that's real musicianship. He's really one of the best guitar players I know.”