Maceo Parker: his name is synonymous with Funky Music, his pedigree impeccable; his band: the tightest little funk orchestra on earth.
It’s fairly common knowledge that Maceo has played with each and every leader of funk, his start with James Brown, which Maceo describes as “like being at University“; jumping aboard the Mothership with George Clinton; and his ongoing part in Prince’s tours. He’s the living, breathing pulse which connects the history of Funk in one golden thread. The cipher which unravels dance music down to its core.
“Everything’s coming up Maceo,” concluded DownBeat Magazine in a 1991 article at the beginning of Maceo Parker’s solo career. At the time Maceo was a remembered by aficionados of funk music as sideman; appreciated mainly by those in the know. For the last two decades Maceo Parker has been enjoying a blistering solo career, building a new funk empire; one that is both fresh and stylistically diverse. He navigates deftly between James Brown’s 1960’s soul and George Clinton’s 1970’s freaky funk while exploring mellower jazz and the grooves of hip-hop.
His collaborations over the years have included Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. His timeless sound has garnered him a fresh young fan base.
It is almost impossible to separate which came first, Maceo or the funk. The amazing P-funk Parker has been at it with his legendary sound for time that dates back to the 1960’s. That’s when Maceo and his drummer brother Melvin climbed on board the James Brown funky soul funk train. It wasn’t long before James coined the solo summoning signature, “Maceo, I want you to Blow!“. To most musicologists it’s the musically fertile group of men from this period of James Brown’s band who are recognized as the early pioneers of the modern funk and hip-hop whose sounds we still jump to in the present day.
Maceo grew to become the lynch-pin of the James Brown enclave for the best part of two decades. – his signature style helped define James’ brand of funk, and the phrase: “Maceo, I want you to Blow!” passed into the language. He’s still the most sampled musician around simply because of the unique quality of his sound.
There would be other projects and short hiatuses during his on-off time with The Godfather, including a brief spell overseas when he was drafted, and in 1970 when he left to form Maceo and All the Kings Men with some fellow James Brown band members (the two albums from this period are on a constant reissue cycle even some thirty years later.)
It was Maceo’s Uncle the front man for a local band; the Blue Notes, who was Maceo’s first musical mentor. The three Parker brothers (Maceo, Melvin and trombonist Kellis- later to become Professor of Entertainment law at Columbia University) who formed the “Junior Blue Notes.”. When Maceo reached the sixth grade the Junior Blue Notes were brought by their Uncle perform in between sets at his nightclub engagements. It was Maceo’s first experience of the stage and one that started his love affair with performing an love which has increased rather than diminished with time.
Maceo grew up admiring saxophonists such as David “Fathead” Newman, Hank Crawford, Cannonball Adderley and King Curtis. “I was crazy about Ray Charles and all his band, and of course particularly the horn players“. By the age of 15, Maceo had forged his own style on the tenor sax. “I thought about ‘Maceo Parker plays Charlie Parker’, and then I thought how about ‘Maceo Parker plays Maceo Parker’, what would it be like to have young sax players listening to me and emulating my style of playing“. Thus the “Maceo sound” we know so well was born.
In the mid ’70’s Maceo hooked up with George Clinton, and the various incarnations of Funkadelic, Parliament and Bootsy Collins. He now had worked with the figure heads of Funk music at the height of their success. From the breathtaking shows of James Brown to the landing of the Mothership, Maceo has been there: as close as it gets to some of the most exciting moments in musical history, delivering his sound as a constant point of reference. (read more)