6:30 to 9:30pm
Chris Bates is a bassist of formidable talent. Having worked professionally for 25 years across all spectrums of the musical landscape he continues to be a driving force in the Minnesota music scene. Raised in a musical household Chris learned early on that variety and diversity were the key to being a working musician and he set his sights on the stars by the time he was a teenager. Bolstered by a classical foundation from MN Orchestra bassist James Clute, Chris gained traction as an improvisor at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire where he played in the award winning Jazz Ensemble Iand was able to work with Red Rodney, Donald Harrison, Matt Harris, Ed Soph, Jiggs Whigham and Ira Sullivan in brief but intense concert experiences.
Immediately after the college experience Chris moved back to Minneapolis and dove headfirst into lessons with the world renowned bassist Anthony Cox who encouraged him to begin writing and performing his original music in the group Motion Poets. 3 albums and many van rides later Chris was awarded with a McKnight Composer’s Fellowship for his writing in this award winning ensemble.
At the turn of the century life entered a new phase when a day job, marriage and a son arrived. For several years Chris continued to work in a limited capacity with the focus on family. After being laid off in 2006 Chris has fully reemerged as a bassist and composer and now spends most of his time practicing and composing for the various ensembles he plays in.
In 2012 Chris released his debut album ‘New Hope’ with his quintet Red 5. An all original affair ‘New Hope’ is full of crack shot playing and smart writing that showcases a clean and minimal sound. It was the only jazz album to make the Star Tribune’s Critic’s Tally of top albums in 2012. 2014 saw the release of a new album by ‘The Good Vibes Trio’ and showcases Chris’ love of more standard jazz repertoire with gems from Charles Mingus, Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane mixed with some original tunes from each band member.
Compositionally Chris recently completed and premiered a full big band version of his quirky ‘Friar Monk’ and also wrote a chamber piece ‘Relay Transmission’ for the new music ensemble Zeitgeist that was debuted in the summer of 2014. Highlights from 2015 include a collaborative soundtrack to ‘Morning Follows Night’ a live radio drama in the noir style composed by Chris Bates, Steven Hobert and Soloman Parham for KBEM FM in April and Atlantis Quartet winning one of four McKnight Performer’s Fellowships for 2015-16.
In the spring of 2016 Chris and his band Red5 conducted clinics and performed with the Eden Prairie High School Jazz Ensembles where he was able to debut 3 new big band pieces. Beginning in the fall 2016 Chris will be an official ‘visiting artist’ at the University of MN Morris along with Bryan Nichols and JT Bates. This position was created to help foster recruitment and interest in the long standing jazz program thru a collaboration with Jazz Studies director Jonathan Campbell.
Recording wise 2016 and will be filled with the recording and potential release of albums from Atlantis Quartet, the collective piano trio Bates | Nichols | Bates, Red Planet with Bill Carrothers and an offering from Chris’ new trio ‘Inventions and Dimensions’. In addition to those keep your ears peeled for fresh sounds from Framework, Enormous and a new expanded iteration of Red 5.
Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tim Sparks started picking out tunes 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.
After a stint on the road with a Chicago-based rhythm and blues band, Sparks arrived in Minnesota where he soon established himself as a journeyman guitarist and session player. While recording three albums with the seminal vocal jazz ensemble Rio Nido, Sparks also became proficient in jazz styles from Brazilian to Be Bop. It was at this time he arranged Carla Bley's composition "Jesus Maria" for Leo Kottke. ( Rio Nido's first two vinyl recordings have recently been re-issued on CD on the Japanese Vivid Sound Label.
Sparks also found time to revive his interest in classical music, adapting Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite to the guitar, a work that 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.
A sojourn abroad 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. Many of the Balkan Dreams compositions were recorded on Tim's debut solo CD, The Nutcracker Suite, in 1993. This recording was hailed by Guitar Player Magazine as "an exhilarating, odd-meter minefield inspired by Near Eastern music" and "an important recording from a gifted composer, arranger, and performer." Two more releases followed on the Acoustic Music label, Guitar Bazaar (1997) and One String Leads To Another (1999).
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, which garnered Downbeat Magazine's highest praise, five stars, in 2000 and At the Rebbe's Table (2002) include ensemble work. All three releases have been acclaimed by a broad spectrum of critics and listeners alike. Spring of 2003 saw the release of 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.
I've put in several decades performing, recording, & touring in this jazz game. After college, I studied polyrhythmic concepts in Manhattan with Barry Altschul, the drummer in Chick Corea's Circle. Lived in Hollywood, Oklahoma City, Montana, Miami, Minneapolis, and played in house bands for 5 years on several cruise ship lines. Been on 7 European tours with pianists Bill Carrothers & Giacomo Aula. Shared a few choruses with Barney Kessel, Roseanna Vitro, Manfredo Fest, Sheila Jordan, Terry Gibbs, Greg Abate, Claudio Roditi, Gary Foster, Eric Alexander, Richie Cole, JoAnne Brackeen, Ernie Watts, Wayne Johnson, Karrin Allyson, Kenny Werner, Howard Levy, Toots Thielemans, Avashai Cohen, Bob Dorough, and Sarah Vaughan. My CDs, 'Long Ago' & 'Easy Company', featuring bassist Anthony Cox and pianist Bill Carrothers, have garnered luminous reviews in the international press. Current bands include Red Planet, Klezmerica, Framework, Firebell, Tall Tales, Gypsy Mania, Deep Dish, Sam Miltich, & Andrew Walesch. I've endorsed Bosphorus Cymbals since 1997.