Funk is key for Maceo Parker

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Friday May 17, 2019


Funk is key to jazz of sax great Maceo Parker
By: Terence McArdle

Saxophonist Maceo Parker has scored the funk trifecta. In the 1960s, the trenchant, bluesy wail of his horn served as a foil for James Brown’s screams and grunts on such classics as “Cold Sweat.” The following decade, he toured with George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic just as the Mothership was landing. And by 1999 – after he’d long since established himself as a bandleader – Parker was touring with Prince.

Parker calls his music “2 percent jazz, 98 percent funky stuff” and promises a set list of favorites from Brown, Clinton and his own solo career. Like a preacher driving home a sermon, the sax man knows how to build on repetition. He serves up riffs and melodies to create tension, then pushes the groove to release it. And like any good jazz player (the jazz quotient is really more than 2 percent), he gives plenty of solo space to his seven-piece band. Above all, he loves to get an audience on its feet.

Parker, 76, spent his childhood in Kinston, North Carolina, surrounded by music. An uncle led a local jazz band while his three brothers all played instruments. His parents’ church choir rehearsed around the family piano.

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