Music » Critics' Picks

Maceo Parker

Saturday, Oct. 21; Mississippi Nights


James Brown's Get on the Good Foot. Parliament's Mothership Connection. Living Colour's Time's Up. Prince's Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. Ani DiFranco's To the Teeth. Playlist for a radio show called Free Association? No. They're all recordings featuring the funkified saxophone of Maceo Parker.Parker began his musical career in North Carolina in the mid-1960s, playing with brothers Melvin and Kellis in a group called the Junior Blue Notes. By 1964, the 21-year-old Parker was working in the Famous Flames, playing baritone sax behind the legendary James Brown, and within a few years he had become a key member of that unit -- Brown often could be heard in concert and on recordings yelling, ³Blow, Maceo!² when he wanted his band to kick it into a higher gear.

The best time to hear Maceo Parker play sax, though, is when he's in front of his own band, where he's been for the past decade. Taking a musical approach Parker dubs ³2 percent jazz and 98 percent funk,² his sax style emphasizes hypnotic repeated riffs and recurrent themes and is rooted in blues and soul. You can get a damn good approximation on his live recording Life on Planet Groove, but you've got to check him live for the full funk effect.