The Earshot Jazz Festival and Seattle Theatre Group will present Maceo Parker on Saturday October 29 at the Moore Theatre. As you may know, Mid Day Jazz on the new 88.5 KNKX is home to the occasional feature, The Maceo Mandate, wherein we encourage listeners to take a break and “shake it loose” with the music of Maceo Parker.
An alumnus of James Brown’s band, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins’ Parliament-Funkadelic, and collaborations with Ray Charles and Prince, Maceo has been running his own band since 1990.
“I still enjoy traveling and entertaining. Along with the band, we’re still very very excited about what we do. We’re still having fun, giving it all we’ve got, and it feels good,” he says.
It must feel extremely good. The first Maceo concert I attended lasted for 4 hours. As I recall, very few of the audience members left before it was over. And my friend Nick Morrison made up a new dance on the spot. He called it “Gettin’ Maceated.”
Maceo didn’t start out with the intention of becoming the world’s funkiest saxophone player. He just loved any and all kinds of music. “Nat King Cole, big band stuff, little band stuff, bluegrass, Johnny Cash, Elvis…music, music, music. I was into it, even the Disney stuff.”
Older brother Kellis played trombone and younger brother Melvin played drums. Maceo first learned piano, then found his affinity for the saxophone.
“Sometimes I look at it almost like handwriting,” he says. “We all have the talent that we have, the ability to bounce and shoot the basketball, or catch the football, the whole gamut of what people do. And somehow, my way of playing solos, by listening to my heart and my mind, became a little funky.”
His biggest influence was Ray Charles. “Ray recorded ‘What’d I Say’ in 1959. I remember how it just destroyed our house. We just went bonkers. Me and my brothers tore the house all the way up.”
In 1961, backstage after a Ray Charles concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, Maceo said to the dressing room door, “I don’t know how I’m gonna do it, Mr. Ray Charles, but one of these days, you are going to know me.” In 2003, he opened for Ray Charles in Europe for a three week tour. One of the nights Ray allowed Maceo to come on stage with him and play. They spent some time talking in the dressing room, too. It was a big highlight for the kid from Kinston, NC. You can read more about it in Maceo’s memoir, 98% Funky Stuff: My Life In Music.
Maceo has since performed Ray Charles tributes, both with his own band and with the Ray Charles band. The band members were amazed at Maceo’s impersonation of Ray. It’s spot on, he sounds just like Ray. One long-time Raylette actually cried when she heard him.
The core of the Maceo Parker Band has been with him for many years: keyboardist Will Boulware, bassist Rodney “Skeet” Curtis, and guitarist Bruno Speight. “We’re sort of like family,” says Maceo. “There’s a lot of love there, and it gives me support. They really are top-notch,” he says. On this tour, drummer Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce, Dumpstaphunk) joins the band. “She’s really funky, and she has that New Orleans thing going on.” Maceo’s son Corey will be singing, as well.
Recent years have brought some impressive recognition to Mr. Parker: a Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to music from Les Victoires du Jazz in Paris, the Icon Award at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and this year the North Carolina National Heritage Award from his home state.
Maceo just wants to spread the love. “I ended up doing exactly what I think I was born to do. And I feel good, da-da da-da da-da dah,” he sings. “I was born on a Valentine’s Day, so I can’t help but like people and promote love. I think that’s how it all started. Always remember, we love you!”
Get some Maceo love on October 29 at the Moore Theatre. Opening act is the sensational gospel group The Jones Family Singers, so we can get sanctified and funkified all on the same night.