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Bebop Spoken There

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11,740 (and counting) posts since we started blogging just over 12 years ago. 880 of them this year alone and, so far, 17 this month (August 4).

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Thursday 6: Vieux Carre Jazzmen - The Holystone, Whitley Road, Holystone, North Tyneside NE27 0DA. Tel: 0191 266 6173. 1:00pm. Free. OUTDOOR gig.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Album Review: Maceo Parker - Soul Food: Cooking with Maceo

I generally like to hear an album a minimum of twice before I review it, but tech issues - will I ever conquer streaming? - saw the days pass and, once played, I realised it was like an old pair of shoes; comfortable, and not just the songs I already knew.

Maceo was scheduled to headline the Malta Jazz Festival this year and, while I was sceptical how it would have gone, with this material I've no doubt it would have gone down a storm.

Maceo has been a giant of funk since its inception in James Brown's bands of the late sixties, the Godfather often hollering for his premier saxophonist to solo on studio cuts through to the mid-seventies, by which time he'd become a leading light - alongside Fred Wesley - in the JBs.

He and Fred then jumped aboard George Clinton's Mothership Funk Extravaganza, contributing to albums by Parliament, the Brides of Funkenstein and the Horny Horns.

He spent ten years with Prince who, like James and George, was surrounding himself with established players like Maceo and Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station. A version of Prince's Other Side of the Pillow is featured here, with added Hammond organ a nice touch and a rare guitar solo. 

There's a deliberate New Orleans feel to this, with contributions from stalwarts of the city and covers of tracks by New Orleans acts Dr John, The Meters and Allen Toussaint, Maceo having previously played with the latter two. He also takes on Aretha Franklin's Rocksteady, another artist he's played with in the past.    

The set opens with a remake of his big Rare Groove hit Cross the Tracks and doesn't particularly add or subtract from the original. While Maceo takes the lion's share of solos throughout the album, often with a large horn section behind him, the track MACEO features a brief trombone solo. Both these tracks are more jams, with chants rather than complete songs.   

One of the songs is Compared to What? which I know from my northern soul days, but can't find out for certain who recorded it first.

He's a big Ray Charles fan and sang an impression of him at the Gateshead International Jazz Festival a couple of years back, but mercifully his Hard Times, penned by David Fathead Newman, is taken instrumentally here, the only other instrumental, album closer and highlight, Grazing in the Grass, originally by Hugh Masekela.  

While it's more part of my past than my present, the album is funky, as you'd expect, his sax playing is as good as ever and, while hardly essential, it's mighty fine none the less.
Steve T

3 comments :

Harry said...

Hi Lance,

I remember hearing 'Compared to what' played by Les McCann and Eddie Harris in the late sixties and also sung by Roberta Flack.

Best regards

Harry

Steve T said...

My brother has my northern soul top 500 book so, with my failing memory, I don't even know which version I know.

Gerry Richardson said...

The original is on European Swiss Movement by McCann and Harris. Live at Montreux I think. Also featuring Cold Duck Time and Freedom Jazz Dance - all tunes written by Harris. Great album!

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