Maceo Parker: Keepin' Things Funky

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Thursday January 12, 2012

from The Maui News

Maceo Parker: Keepin’ Things Funky
By Jon Woodhouse

Sax legend Maceo Parker likes to clear up any misperceptions when he performs in concert. Don’t expect a jazz concert, he informs folks, because they’re about to experience some serious funk.

“Sometimes people are confused when they see the instrument, and a lot of times we’re invited to jazz festivals,” Parker explains. “I love jazz, I’m not knocking it. I’ll play an up-tempo section of ‘Satin Doll, with the keyboard player, real fast, and out of that we’ll go into some funk.”

Fronting what he likes to call “the tightest little funk orchestra on Earth,” Parker’s signature sax style has ignited some of the greatest soul/funk tunes and albums, from James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good),” to Parliament-Funkadelic’s “Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk!),” and more recently, Prince’s brilliant “One Night Alone Live.”

When Prince introduced Parker in December at the opening of the “Welcome 2 Canada” tour, he hailed the saxophonist as “the baddest man in show business.” And back in the ’60s, he was immortalized by the Godfather of Soul, who would often call out, “Maceo, I want you to blow!”

So how does this musical legend rate his stature in the halls of funk royalty?

“I’m recognized by saxophone players who are interested in playing funky,” he says humbly. “I’ve influenced a few.”

Raised in a musical family, Parker was studying at the University of South Carolina when he was hired by James Brown. The soul great had first been impressed by Maceo’s brother, Melvin Parker, a drummer who was offered a job once he completed college.

“The night he met my brother, he said, ‘When you’re not a student I’d love to have you play with me.’ About a year later we decided to get out of school. We met him in Greensborough, and the first thing James Brown said to me was, ‘Do you play baritone sax?’ I knew you could answer the question negatively or positively. If I said no, he would forget about me so I had to say yes to whatever he asked. At the time tenor sax was my major, but I said, ‘Yes sir.’ Then he said, ‘Do you own a baritone sax?’ ‘Yes sir.’ ‘Then you can have a job.’ We were very proud that night, two people from the same family about to join James Brown. We were both overwhelmed.”

Read the full article here