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Music Review: Maceo Parker – Roots & Grooves 2-CD

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Maceo. Remember, or at least you recall reading about it, London back in the 1960s, when some overly ardent fan penned a graffito which said, “Clapton Is God!”? Well, you could say that about Maceo, too. Please don’t take offense; none is intended to any, especially the Big Guy. Watch out for that lightning bolt!

Remember, too, when the first President Bush ran for the first time? They called him Mister Resumé, because he had held so many high positions in government. Well, you could say that about Maceo, too, in music. Watch out for that Shrub!

There aren’t many musicians who have the talent and skill to seamlessly take you on a tour from Ray Charles to Funk in the space of one CD case, but Maceo does it here. I like Ray Charles, a lot, but my favorites are on the second disc. I have many fond memories of seeing tapes of Maceo playing with James Brown. Nobody could ever upstage JB, but Maceo made JB work for his star title, just as he did with George Clinton in his Mothership, and Bootsy Collins in Bootsy’s Rubber Band. There was no second place for Maceo. He shared the top spot with everybody.

Maceo is to funky sax what Gerry Mulligan was to baritone sax, or what Paul Desmond was to Scotch and unfiltered cigarette tenor sax. What Harry James was to trumpet. What Django and Jimi were to guitar. These musicians and their instruments were a single entity. At least that’s what the mind’s eye saw, just as Maceo is to his sax. They’re one, inseparable, like bacon and eggs.

Maceo is sufficiently accomplished to have paired with musicians as diverse as Master Ray (Charles), Ani DiFranco, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and James Taylor, winning over some of Charles’s original fans from way back, as well as DiFranco’s younger fans.

The first disc of this twin set is dedicated to Master Ray, and includes eight of his many hits, including “Busted,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “Georgia On My Mind,” and “What’d I Say” totaling out at over 50 minutes.

The second disc is a funk roundup adding up to over 52 minutes, with five of the six selections Maceo originals, and capped with a blistering, almost 18 minute “Pass the Peas.”

Now, if only this was a video!

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About Lou Novacheck