Jazz CD Reviews

Maceo Parker – Roots and Grooves – Heads Up

Maceo & big band: Tribute to Ray Charles & a journey back to funk

Published on February 11, 2008

Maceo Parker – Roots and Grooves – Heads Up
Maceo Parker  – Roots and Grooves – Heads Up  HUCD 3134 (2 CDs),  50:15, 52:31 
*****:

(Maceo Parker: alto sax, vocals; Rodney Curtis, electric bass; Dennis Chambers, drums; plus the WDR Big Band (Cologne, Germany))

Recorded live during Maceo Parker’s European tour of Feb. and March, 2007, with Germany’s talented WDR Big Band, the resulting double CD, Roots and Grooves, is an audio treat. 

The first CD, Tribute to Ray Charles, has all the soulfulness and drive of a Ray Charles concert. What makes this CD so striking is the uncanny resemblance Maceo brings to vocals on both Brother Ray’s voice and mannerisms. On I’m Busted and Hit the Road, Jack, you’re brought back to Ray’s Atlantic Records days, as Maceo hits all the right notes. On ballads, You Don’t Know Me and Georgia on My Mind, Maceo “becomes” Ray, and you will swear that Ray was reincarnated into Maceo’s soulful vocals.

Maceo’s earlier claim to fame was as James Brown’s right hand man and collaborator. Now we can add Maceo as a Charles’ devotee. His tribute to Ray is a classic!

On CD 2 – Back to the Funk, we find the other side of Maceo Parker, that of James Brown and funk masters George Clinton and Bootsy Collins. This CD is dance hall classic soul funk.

Parker’s originals, Off the Hook, Uptown Up, and the 70s funk hit, Pass the Peas, get updated treatment by a European band that could hold its own  with those of Stax, Motown, or a P-Funk aggregation, but in a big band setting.

Having funky classics with big band treatment is such a novel idea that I bet the European audiences were on their feet throughout the concerts shaking their Continental booties to Maceo and big band.

Not to be outdone-vocal wise – by Disc One, Maceo also gets in his vocal licks on To Be or Not to Be, and Pass the Peas.

Maceo is on tour starting in February, albeit with a smaller band (he’ll be at the 2008 Portland Jazz Festival later this month). Don’t pass up the opportunity to see the multi-talented Parker as he hits your home town. He is a stone classic entertainer as evidenced by this new Heads Up 2 CD set. It’s a MUST purchase!

- Jeff Krow




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