Maceo Parker - Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo (2020)

Maceo Parker
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Maceo Parker - Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo 

Saxophone is first thing that comes to mind when people say the name Maceo Parker. Or maybe it’s James Brown exclaiming the name “Maceo!” as Parker unloads on one of his signature saxophone solos on tunes such as “Cold Sweat” or “Doing it to Death.” To be sure, Parker has lent a good helping of funk along with jazz improvisation in assisting artists ranging from Brown to Prince, De La Soul, the P-Funk family, Keith Richard; not to mention Parker’s lengthy work as a band leader that began in the 1970s.

Maceo Parker - Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo 

Saxophone is first thing that comes to mind when people say the name Maceo Parker. Or maybe it’s James Brown exclaiming the name “Maceo!” as Parker unloads on one of his signature saxophone solos on tunes such as “Cold Sweat” or “Doing it to Death.” To be sure, Parker has lent a good helping of funk along with jazz improvisation in assisting artists ranging from Brown to Prince, De La Soul, the P-Funk family, Keith Richard; not to mention Parker’s lengthy work as a band leader that began in the 1970s.

Parker’s vocals will be the revelation to many music fans who hear his latest, Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo. That will be particularly true if the listener isn’t familiar with albums that Parker released as a band leader between time working with Brown, Prince, Bootsy and others. Parker gives that voice a workout on Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo, a 10-track album that includes covers of some loved funk, soul and jazz tunes by legends such as Dr. John, The Meters, Aretha Franklin, Allen Toussaint, as well as reimagined remakes of Parker tunes.

There is a heavy focus on the music made by New Orleans artists on this album, and there is a good reason for that. All of the tracks feature that bouncy, energetic, brassy second line,  jazz infused sound that is distinctively New Orleans.  Soul Food: Cooking With Maceo also has a lineup featuring several New Orleans born musicians such as organist Ivan Neville, vocalist Erica Falls and trombonist Steve Sigmund.

Listeners hear a lot from Parker’s voice and his saxophone, and he endows both with an energy and power that belie his 77 years. Parker has a throaty baritone that is ideally suited for singing New Orleans style blues, funk and soul. That style served legends such as Dr. John very well, and it explains why Parker is so at home taking on “Right Place, Wrong Time.” Parker’s ability to move shift from a swinging jazz/blues voice on “Other Side of the Pillow” to the hard charging funk of “Rock Steady” speaks to his confidence and competence as an all-around performer.

The vocals might make it easy to ignore Parker’s musicianship on the instrument that made him famous, but then you hear his imagination on tracks such as “Hard Times,” a tune made famous by David “Fathead” Newman, makes it clear that Parker’s skills and his mind are still sharp. You just want scream, ‘Blow, Maceo!’ Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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