Maceo Parker on Java Jazz

Maceo Parker, world-renowned funk troubadour, soul saxophonist and living legend has been bringing his groove to fans for 50-plus years and on Jan. 8, he’ll be interviewed on Java Jazz.

Still going strong: Maceo Parker (Nuria Faz photo)

Still going strong: Maceo Parker, who turns 73 next month, has been performing for more than 50 years. (Nuria Faz photo)

The program airs 6-9 a.m. and Parker, who will be the show’s spotlight artist, is slated to be on at 8:30.

Parker, who plays Infinity Hall in Hartford on Jan. 8, gained widespread recognition during his years with James Brown, joining the “Godfather of Soul’s” band in 1964. It was during this period of time where Brown, boosted by the Parker and Fred Wesley-led horn section, laid the groundwork for funk music which reached its zenith in the 1970s with George Clinton’s Funkedelic and Parliament outfits leading the way.

It was in Parker’s first stint (1964-70) with Brown that Brown came up with the famed on-stage command “Maceo, I want you to blow.”

Funky godfather: Music director Nate Jones (left) with James Brown (center) and Maceo Parker in the studio during a Brown recording session.

Funky godfather: Music director Nate Jones (left) with James Brown (center) and Maceo Parker in the studio during a Brown recording session.

In 1970, Parker along with a handful of Brown’s band, including his drummer brother Melvin Parker, guitarist Jimmy Nolan and bassist Bernard Odum formed Maceo & All The King’s Men who would release a pair of well-received albums before Parker returned to recording with Brown in 1972 until 1975 when he started working with George Clinton and a bassist known as Bootsy.

Parker never completely broke with Brown, rejoining his band again in 1984-88. He also had another short-lived side group, following Maceo & All The King’s Men, when he put together Maceo & The Macks in 1974 and the band put out a number of singles, primarily covering Brown’s work.

When Brown’s line-up was decimated by the mass exodus in 1970, he brought on a group of young musicians from a Cincinnati-based band called The Pacemakers led by brothers bassist William “Bootsy” Collins and guitarist Phelps “Catfish” Collins who would make up the nucleus of what would become the J.B.’s. who backed Brown for the next decade.

Parker and Wesley linked up with Collins in 1975 when they were part of the studio musicians that Clinton brought in for his epic Mothership Connection, which included Joe Farrell, Randy and Michael Brecker Brothers as part of the all-star horn section.

Doing Their Own Thing: Maceo & The Kingsmen in 1970 after members of James Brown's backing band called time on working for "The Godfather of Soul."

Doing Their Own Thing: Maceo & The Kingsmen in 1970 after members of James Brown’s backing band called time on working for “The Godfather of Soul.”

In 1976, Collins went solo, enlisting many of the players who had been working with the Wesley-led horn section dubbed the Horny Horns, which included Parker. They would be a key part of Collins’ work for the next few years in the on-again, off-again Bootsy’s Rubber Band. The Horny Horns were augmented into the Parliament lineup which churned out such classic albums as The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein and Motor Booty Affair.

Clinton never did things in small, subdued ways, including stage shows.

Brothers in horns: (from left) Fred Wesley, Pee-Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker worked together off and on for decades.

Brothers in horns: (from left) Fred Wesley, Pee-Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker worked together off and on for decades.

The mid- and late-1970s were a period of excess for the Parliament touring ensemble that Parker was part of, often having 20-plus players on stage for shows which spared no expense when it came to high-end stage props, including “the Mothership” – an aluminum spacecraft which, with Clinton inside, would be lowered from the rafters late in concerts with Clinton emerging as Dr. Funkenstein.

In 2015, a 1,200-pound reproduction of the Mothership was installed at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Following a 15-year absence as a solo artist, Parker released For All The King’s Men in 1989 and would average almost an album a year with 2012’s Soul Classic’s being his 12th solo release since 1990. Saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, a long-time collaborator dating to the Brown band of the 1960s, appeared on many of Parker’s work in the 1990s.

Parker published his autobiography 98% Funky Stuff My Life in Music (Chicago Review Press) in 2013.

Just as he remains today, Parker is an in-demand session player having done with with Prince, Ray Charles, Living Colour, Ani Difranco, James Taylor, Bryan Ferry, De La Soul, Dave Matthews Band, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Candy Dulfer and the WDR Big Band.

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