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Funking It Up 

Maceo Parker

Wednesday, Feb 14 2001
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How cool is Maceo Parker? Think cucumbers. Think ice. Think twice before giving up the opportunity to see this quintessential saxman play live: If there's anything Parker's proven over four decades of delivering funky licks, it's that nobody plays that funky music better than he does. While his recordings have a definite appeal, his live shows are a whole different animal. Parker jams across the stage, fingers flying, sweat glistening on his shiny dome, letting notes fly off into the audience and land with almost palpable impact.

He once told the New Funk Times, of his stint with the "hardest-working man in show business," James Brown, "Once you hit a certain boiling point in excitement and heights of entertainment, you just can't get any higher. It's almost like a boxing match. Once you knock the guy out, why keep hitting him and hitting him? I mean, it's over!" Now with 10 years of touring as a frontman and five albums under his belt, Parker could almost be the subject of his own statement -- but not quite. That's because folks lucky enough to funk along to Parker in the flesh will testify that it's far from over, thanks to his constant musical evolution.

Picked up by the Godfather of Soul fresh out of college, Parker walked away in the '70s to sign on with George Clinton and a little band called Parliament (and its sister group, Funkadelic), becoming an integral part of that wild ride. Since going out on his own in 1990, Parker has collaborated with an eclectic collection of prominent musicians, from Prince to Ani DiFranco to Ben Harper, with whom he toured and jammed last summer.

As he blows his horn into his 58th year (Valentine's Day is his birthday), Parker's energy level seems as high as ever. Longtime bandmates from both his Brown and Clinton days form a tight backdrop to the show, but nobody can take the spotlight away from Parker for long: He's so damn cool, he's hot.

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Katherine Brown

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