Friday, May 14, 2010

Maceo Parker: Funk's Legendary Saxman

Maceo Parker's name is synonymous with funk. When I hear his name, I immediately think of greasy, raw, uncut funk. I can say without exaggeration that Maceo is the funkiest sax player on the planet. He was James Brown's go-to guy on some of the funkiest records ever recorded. When a groove had reached its apex of funkiness, James would often call for Maceo to bring one of his roof-burning sax solos to the mix. And miraculously Maceo would make the groove even funkier.

He consistently delivered massive doses of funk on each of his solos. He could improvise solo after funky solo, with each one being funkier than the last. It's no wonder that Maceo was the most showcased musician in James Brown's rotating squadron of funky players. My brother once told me that when he was little, he thought James was shouting, "Mercy!" when he was calling for Maceo, which is fitting because Maceo did indeed bring some mercy to the mind and soul with his incredibly funky solos.

Maceo also had a long and productive tenure playing with Parliament/Funkadelic as a member of the Horny Horns. He played on some of Parliament's biggest hits and contributed solos to iconic cuts like "Flashlight" and "P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)." He also played on all four Bootsy's Rubber Band albums, three of which (Strecthin' Out In Bootsy's Rubber Band, Ahh... The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! and Bootsy? Player of the Year ) are undisputed funk classics.

In addition to The Godfather and The Funk Mob, Maceo has recorded with a cavalcade of prominent artists and bands, including Keith Richards, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Dave Matthews Band and Living Colour. Maceo has also recorded with his Royal Badness himself, Prince, and played some dates on Prince's 21-night stint at the O2 Arena in London in 2007.

Maceo has also brought the funk on a number of solo projects, including Roots Revisited, Mo' Roots, and For All The King's Men. And the MTV crowd became aware of him when he was featured in Deee-Lite's cheerfully goofy and slighty wigged-out video for the infectious hit song "Groove Is In The Heart" in which his fellow P-Funk alum Bootsy Collins also appeared.

Maceo was born in Kinston, North Carolina in 1943 and hailed from a musical family. His father played drums and piano, and both parents sang in church. His brother Melvin played drums and his brother Kellis trombone. In 1964, Maceo and his brother Melvin joined James Brown's band.

Related blog entry: "Shake Everything You Got" by Maceo Parker