Maceo Parker Roots & Grooves

Maceo Parker returns with a knockout on Roots & Grooves, a two-disc set recorded live with Cologne’s WDR big band. The first disc is a heartfelt tribute to Ray Charles. If you caught Parker on Prince’s Musicology tour a few years back you’ll remember his wistful interpretation of "Georgia On My Mind” and Roots allows Parker to get deeper into the Charles catalogue. "Busted” and "Hit The Road Jack” are delivered with genuine conviction, as Parker’s clear and funky alto-sax riffs and gritty vocals (a revelation here) channel the late "Brother Ray” succinctly. The big band accompaniment is invigorating, no more so than on a killer rendition of "What I’d Say” where the multitude of horns acts as a chorus that blows the roof off the sucka! Things only get better on the second disc, entitled Grooves, where Parker is joined by fellow P-Funk alumni Rodney "Skeet” Curtis on electric bass and Dennis Chambers on drums, respectively. Jams like "Uptempo Up” and "To Be Or Not To Be” are straight up monsters that, powered by Curtis’s liquid bass lines and Chamber’s fatback drums, blow the groove into the stratosphere. It all climaxes with the 17-minute-plus workout that is "Pass The Peas,” with Parker rocking mad respects to both the JBS and former boss the Godfather of Soul James Brown. Roots & Grooves is not only a touching tribute to Ray Charles and James Brown but also an effective affirmation of Maceo Parker’s unique talent. (Heads Up)