The former sax player for James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic, Parker has of late become a phenomenon in the jam band universe, thanks, in part, to his legendary live shows. Of course, his credentials also give the man props in the hip-hop and R&B universe.|
Maceo stepped onto the House of Blues' stage on Friday night (1/25) in a sharp, gray, three-button suit and black sunglasses and announced confidently, "Let me take my microphone." This man is cool. And whether blowing sax solos that walloped out of the house P.A., or working the crowd into a wiggly lather with his charismatic singing style--a mix of MC and television talk-show host--Parker could simply do no wrong.
The night opened with Maceo's band, a strong four-piece with a pair of female backup singers, dropping a funky rhythm. Suddenly, they introduced Maceo, who was sprite, smiling, and full of soul. After two trombone players, including Fred Wesley, another former JB, joined the band, Maceo tore into a robust three-hour-plus set.
The first song, "Maceo's Groove," lasted 10 minutes and included funky breakdowns and audience call-and-response parts. Next came the astonishing, "This Funk is Off the Hook," highlighted by Maceo's sexy sax and a cacophonous climax that practically blew back the theater's walls--truly, off the hook.
Like a kid who can't keep a secret, Maceo hinted at something brewing backstage throughout the show's first hour. "This is going to be a night you'll remember," he declared before launching into James Brown's "Gimme Some More." When the tune ended, Parker bellowed, "We gonna surprise you tonight!" Then his son, Corey, appeared to handle lead vocals on "Uptown Up."
With two trombones and Maceo on the sax, it's easy for the guitar player to feel a little left out. So Maceo announced a song for the guitar player, in which Bruno Speight promptly shredded his guitar neck with nasty, colliding licks and harrowing solos.
Next, Parker and his band, bathed in blue light, offered up a lonely instrumental ballad that kept the crowd passionate and intense. The song culminated with Maceo playing the refrain of "Hey Jude" on his sax, coaxing the audience to sing along.
Finally, guests started to pour out from backstage one by one, as Maceo held his open palm up to his ear in classic, "Lemme hear ya" fashion. He introduced alto-saxophonist Candy Dulfer, from Amsterdam, with whom he's collaborated on several projects. Decked out in a plaid skirt and a white leather jacket, the sax player looked like the Chrissie Hynde of the jazz world. Parker playfully smirked, "Who else is back there?" Slowly, an entire new band took over until the excited Parker yelled, "This is Prince's band!" The audience shrieked and immediately pressed closer to the stage.
Then Prince stepped out, dapper as ever. Together, Maceo and Prince bounced through a pair of songs, including "Musicology," a new Prince tune and a cover of Blackstreet's "No Diggity." As Prince and his group exited stage left, Maceo announced, "We've got royalty in the house!" But truly, the real royalty was still onstage.
For the next hour, Maceo and his band offered more funky instrumentals led by Parker's effortless fat notes. He flipped through octaves with lightning speed, proving himself to be one of the day's most underrated sax players and touring artists.
After a brief recess, which prompted the remaining fans to chant, "Ma-Ceo! Ma-Ceo!" the musician and his band returned to hammer through another short batch of songs that included "Those Girls" and the crowd-pleasing "Pass the Peas."
Then, after more than three nonstop hours, Maceo put on his black sunglasses and finally called it a night.
-- Gabriel Sheffer