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Maceo Parker: Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo

Ian Patterson By

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Maceo Parker: Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo
After a trio of albums with the WDR Big Band, funk legend Maceo Parker returns to the more familiar, small ensemble terrain. It can be a challenge for any artist whose natural turf is the live arena to reproduce the same electricity in a studio setting—and for almost six decades Parker has been a road animal with James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, and his own bands—but with Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo, the seventy-seven year old saxophonist comes pretty close. Like those WDR collaborations, this outing reprises classic funk, soul and R&B hits, and whilst Parker is arguably playing it safe, there is no escaping the raw energy in these performances and the polish in the production.

Parker played on a number of James Brown's seminal '60s and early '70s albums, and if there is more than a hint of his former employer's trademark sound on the barnstorming "Cross The Track"—one of the all-time funk classics—it is perhaps because Brown co-created/arranged this seminal tune for Parker's band Maceo And The Macks, in 1974. Parker is on terrific form here, his alto saxophone solo just as infectious as the booting-shaking ensemble groove. Parker puts fresh grease in the gears of "M.A.C.E.O," from the Maceo And All The King's Men album Doing Their Own Thing (House of the Fox/Charity Records, 1970), sharing the spotlight with former Ellis Marsalis trumpeter Ashlin Parker.

Groove, as ever with Parker, is the blood in the music's veins, with electric bassist Tony Hall (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson), drummer Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power, Dumstaphunk) and guitarist Derwin "Big D" Perkins (Boukou Groove) at the core of this first-rate band. Ivan Neville on keyboards lends an array of subtle textures, while trumpeter Ashlin Parker, tenor and baritone saxophonist Jason Mingledorff and trombonists Mark Mullins and Steve Sigmund trade in soulful harmonies and punchy riffs. Solos are mainly reserved for the leader, with Perkin's bluesy intervention on "The Other Side of The Pillow"—which owes more to B.B. King than it does to the Prince original—and another on Dr. John's "Right Place, Wrong Time" being notable exceptions.

Vocally, Parker's pipes are strong, punctuating The Metres' "Just Kissed My Baby" and a smoking version of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady" with James Brown-esque yelps and grunts. On "Rock Steady" and "Yes We Can Can"—an Allen Toussaint number made famous by The Pointer Sisters—Parker's voice blends beautifully with rising neo- soul star Erica Falls. Gene McDaniels' politically barbed "Compared To What" sounds more relevant than ever in light of America's recent wars and Black Lives Matter, with Parker's voice evoking Ray Charles, one of his primary influences.

Parker is at his soulful best on the gospel-tinged "Hard Times," most probably tipping a wink to David "Fathead" Newman—another important influence—who recorded the track in 1958. The other instrumental, "Grazing In The Grass"—a Billboard number one hit for Hugh Masekela in 1968—features a chirpy solo from Parker and some sparkling keyboard work, and rounds out the album on a joyous, R&B-inflected note.

Parker shows no signs of slowing down on one of his strongest records in some years. He remains the funk lord extraordinaire and continues, undimmed by age, to spread joy. Soul food? Better believe it.

Track Listing

Cross the Track; Just Kissed My Baby; Yes We Can Can; M.A.C.E.O.; Hard Times; Rock Steady; Compared To What; Right Place Wrong Time; Other Side Of The Pillow; Grazing In The Grass.

Personnel

Maceo Parker: saxophone, alto; Ashlin Parker: trumpet; Steve Sigmund: trombone; Mark Mullins: trombone; Ivan Neville: keyboards; Tony Hall: bass, electric; Nikki Glaspie: drums; Angelamia Bachemin: congas; Erica Falls: voice / vocals; Derwin 'Big D' Perkins: guitar, electric; Jason Mingledorff: saxophone, tenor.

Jason Mingledorff: baritone saxophone; DJ Soul Sister, Tishi, La Shaun, Ziggy, Nikki: backing vocals.

Album information

Title: Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: The Funk Garage

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