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Live Review: Maceo Parker @ City Winery

| August 15, 2015

Maceo Parker 1web

City Winery, Chicago
Thursday, August 13, 2015

As a solo artist, Maceo Parker never ascended nearly as high as James Brown, Prince or George Clinton, but as a sidekick sax man, he was an integral element to each of those funk titans’ tunes (along with related acts The J.B.’s, Maceo & All The King’s Men, Parliament and Bootsy’s Rubber Band, amongst others). With that in mind, the 72-year-old veteran didn’t have any issues selling out his early City Winery engagement, prompting a second late night show at the classy supper club.

In terms of round one, the multi-instrumentalist, his spicy five piece band and two background singers blazed through the leader’s celebrated history that dates back to the early 1960s, even if covers of his bosses’ classic material played second fiddle to individual selections. Even so, Parker is quite an accomplished artist in his own right, as demonstrated on selections such as “Funky Fiesta,” “Off The Hook” (with a snippet shout out to Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”) and “School’s In” (featuring son Corey on rap/scat), all documenting his textbook interplay between “2% jazz and 98% funk” as he half-seriously/half-jokingly insisted.

When it came to remakes, “The Godfather of Soul” salute “Make It Funky” naturally took charge, though despite being further from his family tree, Parker also held equal reverence when singing (and sporting shades) throughout Ray Charles’ “You Don’t Know Me” and playing flute for support singer Darlene Parker’s cheerful but erratic lead on Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Oddly enough, nothing appeared from his latest studio project Soul Classics, which further explores Maceo’s muses with lively interpretations of Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and many more that would’ve been worthy of set list inclusion.

In fact if there was one quibble to be had within the otherwise rhythmically sumptuous night, it was when Parker left the stage to hand the soloing baton over to his clearly capable but sometimes overly lengthy sidemen, which resulted in a lower quantity of actual tunes than would usually fit into a 90 minute night. Instead, everyone was best suited jamming together, culminating with the sizzling dance party “Pass The Peas” that further articulated the sax god’s staying power well beyond the golden age of P-Funk.

-Review and photos by Andy Argyrakis



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