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Maceo Parker: Channeling Charles

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Friday May 18, 2018

From The Australian

Maceo Parker: Channelling Charles, via James Brown and Prince
By: Andra Jackson

Maceo Parker was just 18 when he made a vow outside the dressing-room of his idol Ray Charles. Parker had attended a concert by the blind soul singer-pianist and, in the afterglow of hearing him, found his way to the dressing-room area to feel closer. “I was all alone and speaking to the air and I said, ‘Mr Ray Charles, I don’t know how I’m going to do it but one of these days you are going to want to know me, you are going to know me.’ ”

It was 1961. Three decades later, that vow came to fruition when the saxophonist was opening act for a Charles tour. “It all happened,” Parker recounts, the excitement still evident in his voice. “It was like a spirit, something that was bound to happen.” On meeting the soul star, Parker says: “I didn’t want to bore him but I did want to say to him that ‘me and my brothers had loved you for a long, long time’. And I got a chance to be on stage with him for one song.”

[…] “I wanted to promote love. For me, it is all about love and it is the title of a Ray Charles song.” Parker’s latest CD, It’s All About Love, carries the same message. Every track is a love song. “I don’t really try to imitate Ray Charles but my voice is sort of similar to his anyway,” Parker says.

A key to the authenticity of the Parker tribute is music director Steve Sigmund. He played first trombone in the Ray Charles ­Orchestra for 20 years.

Parker attributes the enduring appeal of Charles’s songs to “when I first heard him, it sounded to me like he had really experienced everything that he sang”. To illustrate, Parker sings a plaintive couple of lines down the phone: “Out on the job, work like the devil for my pay.” It felt like he had done all that, he says.

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