Thursday, January 8, 2015

Pick of the Week - Maceo Parker at the Byham

Maceo Parker by Ines Kaiser
    Revered for his impeccable pedigree and leading the world’s tightest funk orchestra, Maceo Parker, the saxophone titan has played with Funk legends James Brown, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and has collaborated with Ray Charles, Trombone Shorty, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews and the Red Hot Chili Peppers among others.  Parker’s recurring stints in James Brown’s band, in fact, not only produced some of the most enduring entries in the vast canon of American soul music, but also sowed the seeds of the funk revolution of the 1970s.
Parker joined James Brown’s band in 1964 – originally as a baritone player. He came as part of a package deal when Brown hired his brother, drummer Melvin Parker, but the sax player quickly established himself as a valuable member of the team. The first sides he cut with Brown, “I Feel Good” and “Out of Sight,” became some of the most famous of Brown’s canon.  Parker’s first tenor outing on vinyl was Brown’s classic “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
Onstage, Parker served as the perfect foil to the Godfather of Soul – punctuating the frontman’s incendiary vocals and mesmerizing stage choreography with horn blasts that were equal parts melody and percussion.  Parker left Brown’s band in 1970 to launch his own outfit, Maceo & All the King’s Men, but reconnected with Brown three years later – switching to alto sax and laying down horn tracks for Brown’s “Cold Sweat,” “Lickin’ Stick” and “Mother Popcorn.”
Maceo Parker released his first solo record, Us People, in 1974, followed a year later by Funky Music Machine. Throughout the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, he was a featured player with George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band. 
Maceo Parker’s solo career began in 1990 with his first album, Roots Revisted, which set the benchmark by remaining number one on the jazz charts for over 10 weeks. It was the seminal Life on Planet Groove in 1992 that introduced  Parker to younger audiences and to his own international acclaim.
Parker’s other solo projects include Funk Overload (1998), Made by Maceo (2003) and School’s in (2005). He joined the Heads Up International label with the 2008 release of Roots & Grooves, a two-disc set that positions him front and center with Germany’s WDR Big Band, arguably the hottest jazz orchestra on the European continent.  Roots & Grooves is equal parts Ray Charles tribute and a showcase for some of Parker’s own classic material.
Parker reunited with the WDR Big Band at the Leverkusener Jazz Festival in Leverkusener, Germany, in November 2011. The performance included fully orchestrated arrangements of soul classics by American icons like James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin and more. Nine of the songs from the festival set are captured on Soul Classics, Parker’s release on Listen 2 Entertainment on September 14, 2012.
            Without question, Parker’s body of work over the past four decades stands on its own merits, yet he sees the music as part of an even greater message. “At all my concerts, I try to say ‘love’ as many times as I can,” he says. “I think if we all use that word as much as we possibly can, the idea will flourish, and all that other negative stuff will diminish.
View video of Maceo Parker’s “Make it Funky” featuring Trombone Shorty here:
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    The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust presents the legendary musician Maceo Parker and his funk-filled band on Friday, January 16, 2015 at 8:00pm.  This performance will take place at the Byham Theater, located at 101 Sixth Street, downtown Pittsburgh.  Tickets ($20.00 - $45.00) may be purchased in-person at the Box Office at Theater Square, 655 Penn Avenue, online at, or by calling (412) 456-6666. To purchase 10 or more group tickets, call (412) 471-6930.

Maceo Parker by Ines Kaiser

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