Maceo Parker | Soul Food-Cooking with Maceo | (The Funk Garage/Mascot Label Group)
4 out of 5 stars
The title of 1994’s documentary My First Name is Maceo says it all.
Like other musical legends/icons such as Elvis, Aretha, Prince and Madonna, anyone hearing the first name Maceo knows exactly who it is.
Maceo Parker has been the go-to funk saxist from his days taking it to the bridge as a key member of James Brown’s early outfits. But he was also a member of Parliament/Funkadelic and Prince’s band, let alone working with dozens of artists that range from Bryan Ferry to Jane’s Addiction. Somewhat lost in his story though are the 15 albums Parker has recorded as a frontman, all worth hearing.
Nothing changes on release #16.
The forever youthful 77 year old Parker cranks out another ten sizzling selections that haul buckets of funk, along with some jazz, backed by a top flight band. His group is comprised mainly of New Orleans musicians like bassist Tony Hall and keyboardist Ivan Neville, no surprise since that city prides itself on rugged rhythms.
All but two tunes are covers. Most, like Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can,” Aretha’s “Rock Steady,” and Dr. John’s “Right Place Wrong Time” are well known to any roots American music fan. Maceo sticks to alto sax with occasional vocals (he’s a surprisingly effective singer) and no matter how often you may have heard the originals, he brings a fresh, frisky, soulful edge to everything.
While the two originals such as the opening “Cross the Track” and “M A C E O” can’t compete with classics like the Meters’ “Just Kissed My Baby” or the jazz/soul standard “Compared to What,” they slot in nicely with the rest of the more popular fare, serving to balance the set list. Maceo mixes sweet yet edgy soul with the Crusaders styled “Hard Times” and gets sexed up on the bluesy Prince rarity “The Other Side of the Pillow,” an obscure cover and the track most radically altered from Prince’s acoustic original. A smooth version of the oldie “Grazing in the Grass” closes this tasty program on a lower boil with Parker and pianist Neville grooving easy over the simmering melody.
At this late stage, Maceo Parker has nothing left to prove but shows he still rules the funk scene with 50 minutes guaranteed to put a smile on your face, even in the midst of a pandemic.