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Maceo Parker

Will Boulware

Bruno Spreight

Rodney "Skeet" Curtis

Martha High

Photos by Rudy Lu

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Massry Center for the Arts
Albany, NY
September 23, 2011

by Jeff Waggoner

The paragon of funk, altoist Maceo Parker, was in Albany September 23, looking lean and hungry.  Lean enough to make you think someone’s been taking the fatback out of his peas, but hungry enough to put on a great show at the Massry Center for the Arts at the College of St. Rose. 

He did.  With help from a world-beater band that included, among others, Martha High, a long-time singer with James Brown and ex-member of the great female vocal harmony group, The Four Jewels.  High brought the house to its feet when she took a solo.

Maceo, of course, got started with the Godfather of Soul himself when he came in a package with Maceo’s brother the drummer Melvin.  Brown wanted Melvin, but he’d only come with Maceo.

At least that’s how the legend has it, and how it’s told by Melvin’s son, Marcus, now his uncle’s drummer.

So, the 68-year-old Parker was present with Brown at the birth of funk –“ Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” -- a sound that lets up on the melody and harmony and bears down on the rhythm.  That’s why Maceo always asks that the peas be passed more than just one time. It’s life on Planet Groove.

Rounding out the rhythm section were Rodney “Skeet” Curtis on bass, Bruno Speight on guitar and Will Boulware on keyboards.

Two stuck at the airport and late to the show were the trumpeter W. Lee Hogans and Maceo’s son, the vocalist Corey Parker.  Both whom added just the right juke, keeping the groove from becoming a rut.

James Brown – “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” – constantly reinvented his sound, and Maceo does the same. Hard working. Clean. And clever.

The gifted young Hogans, who plays with a brilliant Marsalis-like tone, trained both as a classical and jazz trumpeter and toured with the rappers Jay-Z and Sean “Diddy” Combs, seemed an odd fit to Parker’s band, but is testament to his effort to keep a fresh sound.

But it is Maceo’s own son, Corey, a hip-hop singer who keeps the funk sound relevant to new listeners and fresh to seasoned listeners

Friday night’s package was put together by Maceo, who shows no signs of slowing down.  Singing, dancing and demonstrating his chops. Telling the audience that he doesn’t play jazz while showing them he does.  Being an instrumentalist, but doing a remarkable imitation of one of his heroes, Ray Charles -- singing.

He’s the man who showed up to play with James Brown as the odd guy out. But now the third wheel has taken over the wheel of funk, taking charge of its future, making sure that it’s passed down to the Corey Parkers, the Marcus Parkers and the W. Lee Hogans.

It’s future is secure.

Jeff Waggoner has written book, CD and concert reviews for publications such as Down Beat, Jazz Times, Blues Access and The New York Times.