By AARON FUMAROLA
Maceo Parker, the legendary funk saxophone player who has played with such musical icons as James Brown and Prince, brought his all-star band to the Homer Center for the Arts Tuesday night, fresh from a recent weeklong residency at the Blue Note, one of New York City’s most famous jazz clubs.
Parker’s impressive discography is essentially a living compendium of groove, blending the original sounds of funk and soul from the ’60s and ’70s with modern interpretations of hip-hop, dance and bass-heavy rhythm and blues.
Most well-known for working as a sideman, Parker has been the main attraction as a solo artist for decades, churning out such influential hits as “Cross the Tracks” (1975), “Soul Power 74” (1974), and “Maceo’s Groove” (1998). His particular saxophone sound is a sought-after component that both horn players and horn sections around the world strive to emulate.
At 76, Maceo is a consummate performer, comfortable and confident on stage. He and his band of stellar musicians wove together a rare form of musical magic that in one moment lifts the listener high into the rafters of groove, a place where nodding heads and tapping feet become involuntary, and another that takes a deep dive into the bittersweet and sublime.
Equal parts endearing and exciting in its execution, the band played masterful interpretations of “Make It Funky” (James Brown), “Hey Pocky Way” (The Meters) and Maceo’s own “Uptown Up,” all of which laid exceptionally deep in the groove “pocket.”
Parker exudes pure joy on stage, constantly moving and swaying, paying homage to his mentor and friend, the legendary James Brown, in whose band Maceo first became famous. From donning sunglasses and performing an endearing version of Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me,” to cracking jokes between numbers, Parker was so sharp he feigned aloofness only as comic relief.
Darlene Parker, Maceo’s cousin and backup singer, enraptured the audience with a soulful yet upbeat version of “Stand by Me,” while Maceo treated listeners to a lightning-fast version of Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll” followed later by the most achingly beautiful rendition of “Over the Rainbow.”
Maceo Parker is, quite simply, the personification of funk, a revelation on the saxophone and a national treasure of all things groovy.
Aaron Fumarola is a Homer native, a lifelong drummer, and a lover of all things rhythmic.