Maceo Parker is one of Funk music’s enduring heroes. He’s a consummate musician with performing credits that read like a who’s who of R&B, Soul, and Funk giants. His amazing saxophone work has graced crucial recordings by James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns, Deee Lite, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Prince, and of course, his own illustrious solo career which has produced 18 albums. His is a journey into a sound that is 98% Funk and 2% Jazz. Here are eight of his essential performances.
“PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG”-JAMES BROWN (1965)
James Brown’s first steps in terms of defining what Funk actually results in his first Top Ten pop hit. Originally released as a two-part single, the second half introduces the pop audience to Maceo’s melodic yet hard-edged horn work.
“COLD SWEAT”-JAMES BROWN (1967)
Widely considered to be the first full-fledged Funk song, “Cold Sweat” clearly establishes the concept of THE ONE. The accent is on the first beat and Brown calls for Maceo to “put it where it’s at.” Maceo complies.
JAMES BROWN ON “MUSIC SCENE” (ABC-TV)-NOVEMBER 10TH, 1969
Brown appears on Music Scene to perform the single “Mother Popcorn.” During the highly charged performance, Brown engages with Maceo in a duel between his screams and Maceo’s horn blasts.
“SOUL POWER 74”-MACEO AND THE MACKS (1974)
Maceo’s first frontman project under the tutelage of the Godfather of Soul puts his sax magic over the backing track of Brown’s 1971 hit.
“BETWEEN TWO SHEETS”-FRED WESLEY AND THE HORNY HORNS (1977)
From being a prime member of James Brown’s Funky People to riding high on George Clinton’s Mothership, Maceo co-leads the Horny Horns with Fred Wesley on the sax and MC tip.
“ELVIS IS DEAD”-LIVING COLOUR (1990)
A bold and factual musical statement by the leading representatives of the Black Rock Coalition. Special musical guests: Maceo Parker and Little Richard.
HOUSE PARTY 2 (I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU COME TO DO-TONY! TONI! TONE’!-(1991)
Serving as the main theme song for the second installment of the House Party movie franchise, Tony! Toni! Tone’! deliver a rump-shaking throwdown that features an unexpected appearance by Mr. Parker and his sax.
“SHAKE EVERYTHING YOU GOT”-MACEO PARKER (1992)
Maceo’s first live album opens with the track Southwick, originally recorded by Maceo And All The King’s Men in 1970. By this time, trombonist Fred Wesley and fellow saxophonist Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis assisted in delivering the Funk Overload.
As Maceo Parker embraces 79 years of “Sax”-ual Healing, let us make sure that this African-American musical legend gets his roses.
Photo: Maceo Parker, Hamburg 2000 (MikaV via Wikimedia Commons)
Honorable mention to his performance on Deelite’s “Groove is in the Heart” — funk for the rave generation.