Published Jan 01, 2006Maceo Parker is a man who has found his calling. At 57, his career is arguably at its peak; at this point Maceo's work is simply to be Maceo, soul ambassador and purveyor of a funky good time. No longer just a famous P-Funk and James Brown sideman, he headlines 300 shows a year, working with a huge range of adoring artists who hire him just to get that Maceo vibe. All he has to do is let his own flavour of funk flow from his horn.
"The simpler it is, the more people understand it," Maceo says humbly. "I try not to get too deep. I'm not gonna come up with a two-minute head that no one can remember; I come up with these phrases so that people can hum them." His particular combination of melodic inventiveness and rhythmic precision is the very definition of funk.
Maceo is still at the peak of his playing ability, and his reputation as an unpretentious, hard-working gentleman inspires all those with whom he works. His new disc, Dial Maceo, features guest stars such as Ani DiFranco and Prince, whose "Most Beautiful Girl In The World" is substantially improved by Maceo's horn declamation. He has toured extensively with DiFranco, and looks forward to more soon. "Instead of having [separate sets], we want to take about two weeks off to rehearse, and combine the bands onstage into a whole different thing."
His live shows are legendary three-hour marathons of a well-seasoned band showing all its chops. Again and again in conversation, Maceo says he's happiest when he's playing live every single day: "I love my band, they never want a day off!" His best-selling album is 1992's Live From Planet Groove; it is his only live album, and a particularly incendiary document of what the man can do. It sells more copies in each successive year, mostly through word of mouth. If Maceo comes to a town near you and it's likely he will you should make a point of experiencing one of the great R&B instrumentalists at work.