IntroAt the end of last year our reporter got a chance to talk with legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker, both famous as James Brown sideman and part of the Horny Horns and Bootsy's Rubber Band. Although his solo albums on the German Minor Music label have earned him critical acclaim in the Jazz field, on the constant tours through Europe, along with Funky Fred Wesley and Alfred Pee Wee Ellis, they give us 2% Jazz and 98% funky stuff. His days with the P. Funk Mob may be a thing of the past, but still in their shows you'll hear Red Hot Mama and Let's Take It To The Stage (recently also pieces of Atomic Dog, Dr.Funkenstein & Loopzilla).
Now, in the first part of the interview, let the man himself tell you about how the current line up formed and his associatin with the P...
InterviewYou've played Germany and Europe several times in the past few years. When did you actually get together with Pee Wee Ellis and Fred Wesley again to perform as a three-piece-horn section?
Maceo Parker: I guess it was probably during my last year with James Brown. If I can remember correctly, it was something like the middle 80s, when we decided, we hadn't really decided, we just talked about it: maybe it would be O.K. if the three of us would get together. Because we're messing around, you know, doing each individual things. And I sort of felt, that at least Fred and me, we kinda team up would be...you know those strong words: strength in numbers and all that stuff. But somehow the tree of us just happened to meet over in California once, and got talking: maybe somewhere in the future we just start something and try something and see how it works. It was just in the middle of the 80s, we kinda decided that we'll try to do something. Had no idea how it was going, how it was gonna form, but we just thought it would be great if somehow the three of us could be...
...working out, after a time just got togehter again.
Maceo Parker: Yeah, what happenden was: we just went to the sudio once when we got situated where we could go to the studio and do something. We didn't know how we're gonna call it, so we first started calling it THE J.B. HORNS. Then we said,: oh well, we didn't particularly like that, because our individual names get lost in a name like that the J.B. Horns (who are these horns. I dont't know...It was Maceo Parker. Oh that's the guy form James Brown with Fred Wesley). So we thought maybe we could 4 different entities: one as the J.B. Horns, the 3 of us individually. We kinda played around with that, but then it seemed that Maceo Parker was a little bit - at that time - stronger than any other name we could come up with. And that's how we toured, as we are doing now: Maceo Parker & Roots Revisited featuring Fred Wesley & Pee Wee Ellis. Although Fred sometimes goes out on his own as Fred Wesley & New Friend, Pee Wee goes out on his own as Pee Wee Ellis & The Assembly.
So it's still a little bit like in the 70s when everyone had a project, produced by James Brown sometimes, like Maceo & The Macks...
Maceo Parker: Right, exactly.
I just saw your Ray Charles Cap. You did some supprt sllots for him, how was it?
Maceo Parker: Very Exciting. I'm still glowing a little bit about being that close to Ray Charles.He's always been my idol, he's a genuis. I got too much respect for the man, it was almost like a dream come true to be that close to him. Almost made my career complete, now that I had a chance to work with Ray Charles. Very exciting.
You're all featured on sheer uncountable numbers of albums from other artists over the years. Now, I think the most recent thing you did: The Smell My Finger project with George Clinton?
Maceo Parker: I don't know.
Released only a few month ago.
Maceo Parker: Unless he pulled out some old stuff that we recorded. I don't think I am on that one, unless he just happened to release something that we've done.
So you think he might have used some old material?
Maceo Parker: Yeah, well, I haven't heard it, it's hard to say. If I'm on it, then I'm sure it's old material. I haven't done anything with him in quite a while. I gotta hear it. They have a habit of pulling old stuff out and kinda use it again for a new project. So I have to hear that just to see exactly what it is. I have not heard it yet. But I have heard the expression, something about fingers: Smell My Finger or something like that. I don't have no idea what it means. Here again: it's George Clinton (laughing).
You got any plans to come together with the P.Funk Mob again?
Maceo Parker: No (still laughing). No plans, but it might be a time when I'm off & I may be near and I may come out and wave my hand or get a cowbell or something like that. To tour with them again - probably the same with James Brown - it's probably behind me now. I'd rather keep going forward doing what we're doing now. Although I don't rule it outas 100 percent not happenning, but I don't think so. There's no plans been made.
I think the last time you played in 89 or 90 with Bootsy as the Horny Horns?
Maceo Parker: Mhhh...
It was a very, very short European tour, I think. Some dates in England.
Maceo Parker: O.K.
So what happened to Richard 'Kush' Griffith from the Horny Horns?
Maceo Parker: Kush is blind now. He plays occasionally. He lives in Turkey, he also has to be on a dialysis machine every two or three days. I think the dialysis has to do with the...kidneys. So it's little bit difficult for him to really travel and get aound like we do now, but he's still playing. I call him ocassionally.
Your New Project Southerrn Exposure just came out in Germany. It has some influence from the south, New Orleans influences. How did you come about to do that?
Maceo Parker: Well, we decided that's what we wanted, we decided that's what we do. The way the albums are formed, the producer, we may get together and he'll have some ideas and I listen to whatever ideas he may have: what do you think of...or maybe we could...and I just take all these into account. And I knew I wanted to go for something really funky. And also at the same time knew I wanted to have a different approach. So, we decided we just use a New Orleans approach this time. And the next time maybe a different album. We may be doing Kuban stuff, I don't know. Maybe some South American stuff.
Something completely different.
Maceo Parker: Something different, maybe. But this time we decided we go to New Orleans to get some of that flavour and we couldn't think of anybody any better than...you know when you think of New Orleans, there are those guys from the Meters: George Porter and Leon Nocentelli, the bass player and the guitar player. And wow! We had a lot of fun. Again, it's exciting to jog the stuff down, have it written, and then kinda look at it and it kinda forms a vision of how you want it to look, how you want it to sound, where you want it to be... And then, after it's all done, you say: Yeah, that's what I was trying to get. And that's got a New Orleans feel as well. But at the same time we decided to go back to New York to do some stuff we normally do. In fact, on the Southern Exposure I'm playing Silverstone without Fred and Pee Wee, another thing that we were trying to do, to get away from that three horns band all the time. And we think we did a pretty good job in showing a different side of the funk. although it is funky. We have a lot of high hopes for this particular album. I've heard so far it's doing pretty good. It hasen't been released in the States yet, I think it's gonna be released in February or first March, something like that. But we're expecting it to do O.K.
Are there any plans for a new project already?
Maceo Parker: Yeah, I got a few more projects. We just signed with a new label, and I think they expect about three albums. We're talking about a Japanese guy that wants to do one album. So as soon as we line all of this stuff up, we looks like complete the three, that'll be seven. So we're all kinda like of getting them down. BMG I think it is.
A whole lotta projects at a time.
Maceo Parker: Yeah, excuse me one second (looking up the name of the record company). Yes, it's called BMG.
Well, going back in time, I think you'll be most remembered as one part of the James Brown Revue, of course, that started in the early days.
Maceo Parker: Yeah.
Now, I think James Brown had some ideas at that time, like the Vietnam concert when you played for the soldiers in Vietnam. What is very difficult for you and the band to keep up with his ideas?
Maceo Parker: No (laughing).
He's very demanding.
Maceo Parker: No, but first of all nobody wanted a war. But the war was happening and all that stuff and we felt honored somehow to be part of...people asked us to go to boost the moral a bit, soldiers simply. I got a big plaque at home saying thanks for special services and all that stuff. In fact I had just gotten out of the military myself when that happened. But, trying to think backon those times, we were not allowed to carry the whole group. We only had confined to something about 8 or 9 people. I was one of the lucky ones to be able to go on that Vietnam tour: But we just found that word came from James: you either want the job or you don't want it. And we knew that working with James Brown you had to kinda...whatever he felt he wanted to do or where he wanted to go, was all his decision. We thought it was something like riding on a big freight train or big passenger train. And whereever that train goes, if you want to get to point D, or whereever it is, you got to get to point A, B, C, D just because this train happenes to go there, if you want to ride on the train. It's your choice: either fly, take the bus, drive yourself around on the train, you will be going around on this train, you got to go: point A, point B, point C, before you get to point D. That's the way we looked at it, it was no big deal. We wanted to ride on the train, if somebody comes around with a big special train that goes really, really fast: Gotta do that, I wanna do that. That's what we thought of James Brown: this guy that...if you felt like you're any kind of musician and you had that pride and all that, you got a job with James Brown, that's the way we felt. Hopping on this train, going whereever the train goes. It wasn't like a big sacrifice or anything like that. We just knew that we're part of his group and we went whereever he had to go.
And you had to give 110 percent.
Maceo Parker: Right (laughing).
I think from 1964 to 66 you've been musical director of the James Brown Revue.
Maceo Parker: No, not really, I was not musical director, I was a lot of things, but never that. I was M.C. for a while, I was comedian for a while , and I always did the sax solos. But it's always been other guys who was like musical director. I was a director in the 80s, 84 I think. There was a guy... I was musical director, there was another guy supposed to be band leader. So, the band leader and a musical director (laughing). You know, it's funny, I always picked up my name as a title, I gotta be Mceo.
Maceo blow your horn.
Maceo Parker: Maceo come on do this, so that's all like a little in itself. Plus he knew occasionally I would go out and do my thing and catch up with them two weeks later. So, I guess he felt like rather give somebody else the title of leader and just give Maceo director (laughing), whatever that meant."