M.F. Productions presents Defenders of the Groove, featuring vocalist Ernie Andrews, saxophonist Plas Johnson, and guitarist Melvin Sparks.
Ernie Andrews was discovered at the age of 17 by songwriter Joe Greene in 1947, when he won an amateur show at the Lincoln Theatre on Central Avenue in Los Angeles. With a 300,000-seller hit, "Soothe Me" with "Wrap It Up And Put It Away" on the flip side, Ernie Andrews became a singer to be reckoned with. In 1953, he had another big record with "Make Me a Present of You" with Benny Carter. Ernie's life was profiled in an award-winning documentary, available on video, Ernie Andrews' Blues on Central Avenue, directed by Lois Shelton. Ernie continues to play clubs, concerts, and jazz festivals throughout the world, and often performs in Las Vegas. In 1989 he recorded with Gene Harris and the Philip Morris Superband Live at Town Hall NYC for Concord, and subsequently toured with the band for three months covering five continents. Having the ear to improvise and a rich, resonant voice, Andrews plays his vocal chords as a saxophonist plays his horn. He must be seen to be fully appreciated.
Plas Johnson has been one of the most well-known and sought-after saxophonists around the California studio scene. Born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, he played in and around New Orleans while growing up, before going on the road in 1951 with the Chartes Brown Blues Band. Plas attended the Westlake School of Music in Los Angeles for a year and a half, when his studies were derailed by an overloaded schedule of record dates. He was brought to the attention of Johnny Otis, who immediately added him to his blues aggregation. Johnny then introduced Johnson to Dave Cavanaugh, who held an influential A&R position at Capitol Records, where he soon became a regular session sideman and soloist during Capitol's halcyon years. He joined The Merv Griffin Show band, led by Mort Lindsey, in 1970, where he remained for the next fifteen years. Johnson's recent recordings include his own albums, Hot, Blue & Saxy, Evening Delight, and Christmas in Hollywood, and Keep That Groove Going! on Milestone with Red Holloway. You may also find him around town occasionally with his own group, at jazz festivals around the world, and in the recording studio. Plas Johnson combines some of the best elements of jazz and blues, and is admired and emulated by sax players worldwide.
Over the last 30 years, guitarist Melvin Sparks has played with some of jazz's greatest musicians: David "Fathead" Newman, Lou Donaldson, Hank Crawford, Reuben Wilson, and John Patton are amongst the many. During the 1970s, Sparks backed up Lou Donaldson on the funk/jazz classics "Everything I Play Is Funky" and "Hot Dog." Sparks recorded seven albums of his own and played on over 100 other albums. As a session man for Blue Note and Prestige Records, Sparks laid his signature guitar work on many other musicians' albums without ever being in the spotlight. Sparks continues to perform with the greats, such as Leon Spencer Jr., Mike Clark, and Idris Muhammed and is now breaking out his legendary guitar wizardry with many younger bands and artists such as Galactic, the Greyboy Allstars, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Derek Trucks, and Robert Walter's 20th Congress. Melvin Sparks defined the jazz guitar sound of a generation.