Germantown Performing Arts Center |Duncan-Williams Performance Hall
1801 Exeter Road
Germantown, TN 38138
While most sax players have followed in the footsteps of jazz legends like Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, Maceo Parker has consistently marched to a different tune. Since his earliest days, he has gravitated to the more rhythmic and soulful end of the spectrum, following figures like Louis Jordan, Ray Charles and James Brown – all of whom were innovators, each pushing his respective sound and style to the point of becoming something entirely new. It was Parker’s recurring stints in Brown’s band, in fact, that not only produced some of the most enduring entries in the vast canon of American soul music but also sowed the seeds of the funk revolution of the 1970s. In hindsight, Maceo Parker has been as innovative as the people whom he cites as his own influences.
Parker joined James Brown’s band in 1964 – originally as a baritone player. He came as part of a package deal when Brown hired his brother, drummer Melvin Parker, but the sax player quickly established himself as a valuable member of the team. The first sides he cut with Brown, “I Feel Good” and “Out of Sight,” became some of the most famous of Brown’s canon. When St. Clair Pinkney, Brown’s regular tenor player, took ill for a couple weeks, Parker took over. Onstage, Parker served as the perfect foil to the Godfather of Soul – punctuating the frontman’s incendiary vocals and mesmerizing stage choreography with horn blasts that were equal parts melody and percussion. At the height of their collaborative powers, it was difficult to tell where one’s genius ended and the other’s began
At the end of the 1980s, Maceo’s solo career began developing into what we are familiar with today. A steady stream of records followed, beginning in 1990 with his first album in this solo period, Roots Revisted, which set the benchmark by remaining number one on the jazz charts for over 10 weeks. It was the seminal Life on Planet Groove in 1992 that brought Maceo to the attention of younger, college-aged audiences and gave him a strong following throughout the world.
Without question, Parker’s body of work over the past four decades stands on its own merits, yet he sees the music as part of an even greater message. “At all my concerts, I try to say ‘love’ as many times as I can,” he says. “I think if we all use that word as much as we possibly can, the idea will flourish, and all that other negative stuff will diminish. So I’m definitely going to do what I think is my part by just showing the spirit of love throughout the world as much as I can.”