Fenton Sparks was born and raised in Waukegan, Illinois. Mr. Sparks’ performance history includes musical endeavors with Sandra Reeves Phillips in “Mahalia’s Song”, William Komla Amoaku’s “Sankofa”, and time spent with Wave Entertainment out of Champaign, Illinois.
Fenton also was part of ITI recording artists’ “Bout Time” and has frequently been involved with local musical groups and studio work in the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, OH. region. Fenton has been a long standing member of “The Eddie Brookshire Big Band as well as “The Eddie Brookshire Quintet”.
Fenton’s musical awards include winner of the Louis Armstrong award and outstanding drummer awards at The Ohio State University and The Elmhurst Jazz Festival.
Mr. Sparks is a graduate of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio.
Pianist Keigo Hirakawa and is joined by bassist Eddie Brookshire and drummer Fenton Sparks.
The Keigo Hirakawa Trio is a hard hitting, hard swinging, jazz piano trio that reach the highest level of improvisational artistry. Hirakawa's complex rhythmic and harmonic improvisation, Eddie Brookshire's exploration of inside and outside sounds, and Fenton Sparks's spontaneous reactions make each trio performance an adventurous endeavor.
Acclaimed jazz pianist Stephen Scott describes Hirakawa's playing as "full of inventiveness and a sense of adventure, creativeness and voracious angularity, aggressiveness, and jaggedness, passion and swing." Jazz critic Mark Sullivan of AllAboutJazz.com characterizes the ensemble as "a true trio, not just piano plus two accompanists." After seeing their show at Gilly's in Ohio, legendary jazz guitarist George Benson even remarked "I had to come to Dayton to hear real jazz!"
Hirakawa's musical pedigree is impressive. A jazz pianist with a unique sense of expressiveness and rhythm section interaction, he brings highly personal and energetic style of improvisation to ensembles. He distinguishes himself with his articulate use of harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary and his leadership style on the bandstand. Based in Midwest, Hirakawa can be heard throughout the US and internationally. He has appeared on stage alongside Donald Byrd, JD Allen, Bob Moses, Bobby Lavell, Allen Vizzutti, Eddie Bayard, and Richie Barshay. Trained in New York City and at New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, he was a student of many world-renowned jazz artists, including Danilo Perez, Stephen Scott, Harold Danko, Alan Pasqua, Ran Blake, Cecil McBee, Ralph Peterson, Jerry Bergonzi, Donald Byrd, John McNeil, George Garzone, Bob Moses, and Walt Weiskopf.
Hirakawa was the acting director of the Cornell University Jazz Ensembles in 2000-2001, during which time he welcomed Donald Byrd, Jimmy Heath, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Vincent Herring, and Joe Chambers onto the stage as guest soloists. He is a passionate clinician and educator, on faculty at the University of Dayton. Hirakawa's trio features Eddie Brookshire, a veteran bassist who has performed with Elvin Jones, Rusty Bryant, Johnny Lytle, and David "Fathead" Newman; and Fenton Sparks, a longtime drummer for Bill Cunliffe.
Eddie studied acoustic bass with Larry Gales. He also joined a jazz group with James Newton. He attended Central State University and organized the school’s big band which won numerous jazz combo awards at several jazz festivals and ethnic events. Eddie attended Northern Illinois University where he took graduate courses in world music and studied acoustic bass with Larry Grey and steel drums with Cliff Alexis.
Eddie is listed in the “Who’s Who” in colleges and was a member of NIU’s Down Beat award winning symphonic orchestra. When Eddie received his masters degree he traveled with vibraphonist Johnny Lytle and performed as a sideman with various jazz masters such as Jimmy Scott, Elvin Jones, Norris Turney, Bootsy Wood, Sandra Reeves Phillips, Buddy Webb, Cal Collins, Pherez Whitted, Karl Allen, Little Johnny Taylor, Lowell Folson, and Bill Holman. Other ensembles included Bob Curnow, Maria Schneider, Claude Williams, Snookie Young, Von Freeman, Jimmy Wilkins, Early Warren, John Carter, Billy Harper, Benny Maupin, Jimmy Owens, Nathan Davis, Woody Shaw, Slide Hampton, Gerri Allen, Jay McShan, Roy Ayers, Wilbert Longmire, David “Fathead” Newman, and Azar Lawrence.
Eddie is a former member of Kishwaukee Illinois Community Symphony Orchestra. He is also a member of the AAJC-IAJE Big Band and received the NAFEO award for excellent performance on acoustic bass. Brookshire also won the Presser Foundation Award for academic excellence.
Eddie is currently a faculty member at Sinclair Community College where he teaches bass, improvisation, and jazz combo. He also teaches bass and jazz combo at The University of Dayton. He is on the executive board of the A.F.M. Union 101-473.