Thursday, August 25, 2011

Maceo Parker Roots & Grooves 2008

While we're in a funky mood- no better time for Maceo's remarkable 2-CD 2008 set.
Maceo Parker is the most famous of James Brown's soloists, and is one seriously funky dude. His work with Brown is rightfully heralded, but he's made plenty of great music since his days with the Godfather of Soul. From 1975-1985 he played with George Clinton's Parliament and on Bootsy Collins' solo records, and he's made some fifteen solo records since 1970. He's played on many records as a guest, and was featured on several of Prince's records in the last ten years (some of which are a lot better than you'd think).

But the title being discussed here is a monumental recording. Two CDs. Live in Europe with the WDR Big Band, a 20-piece ensemble with impressive skills of their own. The first CD is a Tribute To Ray Charles and the second is dubbed Back To Funk. The Ray Charles tribute disc is a thrill. Maceo sings most of the songs, and his singing is perfect for these tunes, and even sounds a bit like Ray himself. The arrangements and the work of both the star and his noble backing band- no, his fellow stars, the WDR Big Band- it all adds up to fun and beauty. Maceo even does a memorable Georgia On My Mind.

Then on the Back To Funk CD, the gang takes on a number of Maceo originals mostly originally recorded by Parliament or Bootsy, and as one song title states, this is Advanced Funk. A 17-minute Pass The Peas, with no less than six solos by horns, keys, guitar and drums, rounds out the set in fine style. When you're ready for an especially deep groove, look no further. Parker's solos on the entie CD are breathtaking. He is a soulful sax stylist of unparalleled expressiveness.

The recording is luminous. On a good stereo, you can experience new things with this CD. Clarity without edginess. Details abound. Rhythm and pacing that will keep you moving at all times. You can almost see where each player/section is on the stage.

The work of the WDR Big Band cannot be underestimated. And Maceo is thrilled to be in such company, and as such, rises to the occasion. Maceo's no spring chicken. This might be the best recording he ever makes. It definately in the running for the best he's made so far. Seriously. Landmark stuff.

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