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Maceo Parker Revered as Funk Pioneer

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Wednesday February 23, 2011

from The Province

Who was James Brown’s favorite saxophonist? Maceo Parker.

That’s Parker’s big, fat sax sound on such stone-cold ’60s classics as “I Feel Good” (tenor), “Cold Sweat” (tenor) and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (tenor and baritone).

Parker performs in Vancouver Friday night with his nine-piece band. Fans revere the saxophonist as a funk pioneer. In the 1970s he played with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic collective, gleaning further success later as a bandleader. Parker’s recording pinnacle as funk kingpin is Life on Planet Groove (1992), a live album boasting such incendiary offerings as “Shake Everything You’ve Got,” “Pass the Peas” and “Got to Get U.”

Parker, interviewed recently from Denver, ranks “Pass the Peas” as his fans’ favorite number.

“People also love the old James Brown stuff, especially the stuff I recorded. They kind of attribute it to me, too. That has to be a plus,” the 68-year-old musician said, chuckling.

His current band is a family affair. A recent addition is drummer Marcus Parker, who’s the son of Maceo’s brother, Melvin. (James Brown hired Melvin as a drummer in 1964 after hearing him play at a soul-food joint. Maceo joined Brown’s band at the same time.)

Maceo Parker’s son, Corey Parker, is a backup vocalist in the band. The outfit includes trumpeter Ron Tooley, a James Brown alumnus heard on “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” and “I Feel Good.” Tooley, whom Parker described as a “very, very top shelf” musician, has also played with Maynard Ferguson and the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra.

Today, Parker lives in Kinston, N.C., the small town in which he was born. He says playing and touring feels much the same at 68 as it did at 28.

“I just have to prepare more,” said Parker, who has been walking for exercise and — when not on the road — practising two hours daily.

In terms of his approach as a band-leader, he declares himself somewhere between Brown and Clinton. The latter was known as a stern taskmaster who fined musicians for such infractions as playing a wrong note (Parker was once dinged for placing an ice cream on an organ cabinet).

Clinton — a funk music innovator like Brown — is a carefree spirit notorious for wild stage antics. Like landing giant spaceship props on stage.

For sheer thrill value, Parker said Clinton’s shenanigans with Parliament-Funkadelic matched anything Brown could dole out.

Read the full article here