Bath International Music Festival 2009
Schooled at the James Brown University, a frequent flyer aboard George Clinton’s Mothership, an elastic presence in Bootsy’s Rubber Band and special envoy to the groovy palace of Prince, Maceo Parker is the sultan of funk. He’s the man who’ll make you quit the sit, send a shiver to your hip and hit your notion with a potion that’ll start that r-o-l-l-e-r motion. But hey, you know that. That’s why you’re here: to hear the hottest saxophone in soul music leading the tightest little funk orchestra on the planet.
Like the egg and the hen, it’s almost impossible to say which came first, Maceo or the funk. Long before he put an alto to his lips, he felt the groove. Then he learned to channel it. In 1964, Maceo and his drummer brother Melvin were in college in North Carolina when the Godfather of Soul himself, James Brown, happened upon an after hours club where Melvin had a gig. Knocked out by Melvin’s playing, Brown told him that any time he needed a job, the drum chair in Brown’s band was his for the asking. A year later, Brown came back to town. So Melvin approached him and reminded him of his job offer. Brown’s eyes lit up in recognition and just as he was pronouncing Melvin hired, his new drummer introduced his brother, saying Maceo needed a job, too.
The rest is funky music history. Melvin and Maceo thought they might stay with Brown for six months. In fact, Maceo became the lynch-pin in Brown’s musical enclave for nearly two decades, honing a signature sound from serious study of Charlie Parker, King Curtis, David "Fathead" Newman, Hank Crawford, and Cannonball Adderley and creating the exciting soloing style that Brown wanted every time he bellowed, “Maceo, I want you to blow!”
Through his work with Brown, which would find him becoming the most sampled musician around, and his mid 1970s extracurricular adventures with Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, and the various incarnations of Funkadelic and Parliament, Maceo became one of the crucial architects of the funk sound we know today as well as lending his sampled horn to the hip-hop generation.
In 1990, Maceo began to concentrate on his own projects, including his Roots Revisited album, which spent ten weeks at the top of Billboard’s jazz chart, and his ground-breaking 1992 CD, Life on Planet Groove, which became a funk favourite and a calling card to a young audience who picked up on his “2% Jazz, 98% Funky Stuff” catch phrase.
When not adding to his eager collaborators, who have included Ray Charles, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers as well as Prince, Maceo continues to build his own funk empire, taking his top notch, duck’s bum-tight band and timeless sound to the people all over the world. "I feel it's my duty as an artist to go as many places as I can, especially if the people want it," says the man who, in 2003, received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation for his contribution to the R&B genre. So, don’t be shy, people, let him know you want it.