RollingStone.com Maceo Parker
Rolling Stone 1997

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Roxy, New York, May 15, 1997

In the grand tradition of jazz and soul headliners, legendary funk saxophonist Maceo Parker gave his band a few minutes to kick into high gear before joining them onstage. As musicians and audience alike shouted "Come on, Maceo!" Parker, dressed to kill in a black double-breasted suit, bounded onstage and wasted no time unleashing a barrage of his signature, syncopated sax lines. Seems Parker picked up a few frontman tricks during his years helping James Brown and George Clinton pioneer funk.

\\Sliding around onstage like a man half his age, the 53-year-old Parker engaged his audience in a marathon game of Simon Says Shake Your Groove-Thang, serving up stylized soul covers and several of his own contributions to the funk canon. With call and response chants, Brown-influenced mantras, and a set list peppered with classics like Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally" and Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," Parker maintained the party atmosphere of an age gone by for three solid hours.


Maceo Parker: The greatest funkin' show on earth.

\\Unfortunately, both Parker and his audience pay a price for the party. At the beginning of the decade, Parker was riding high on the success of the jazz-oriented "Roots Revisited," which topped Billboard's jazz chart for more than 10 weeks. It seemed the veteran sideman had finally found his niche, pushing his music into a more sophisticated realm without completely forsaking his bread-and-butter style. (The forty-somethings who comprised the majority of his live audience in those days often got more than they bargained for when Parker would announce, after playing a couple of straight-ahead jazz numbers, that he was going to play "two percent jazz and ninety-eight percent funky stuff.")

\\But as a new generation explores the sources of the samples that fuel hip-hop, Parker's audience has gotten younger -- and his concerts have come to reflect that change. He all but ignored his jazzier material in favor of crowd-pleasing songs in the bass-heavy P-Funk vein. As his manager put it later, "Maceo is catering to the kids who *think* that they have discovered something new."

\\There's no question that Parker puts on one of, if not *the* greatest funk show on earth. But by catering to his new audience's preference for funk flash and stunting his own musical evolution in the process, he's in danger of turning into an oldies act -- albeit a very entertaining one.\\\

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Last Updated May 13, 2000