Maceo Parker at Pisgah; Still Keeping Things Funky

Review by Kendyl Starsta

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy

A large crowd stood ready to experience one of Pisgah’s funkiest shows of this year’s outdoor concert series.  The night began with a high energy set from a band appropriately named: ‘The Funk Ark.’ The Washington DC ensemble produced bottomless grooves; displaying a tonal palette that offered an array of sound colored from Will Rast, the band’s composer on keys, mixed with latin flavored percussion along with an irresistible afro-beat that got everybody dancing.

There was just enough time before the headliner took stage to grab a fresh seasonal brew and a gator dog. After being a Florida native, I thought I had tried everything gator, but this was a first.  And it was damn good.

Heading back to the stage, I heard “Maceo, Blow your Horn!”  just as the former James Brown member Maceo Parker and his ‘Little Funk Orchestra’ took the stage.

Appreciated by those in the know, this NC born cat on sax warmed up with a smooth tenor scale that perked our ears and drew us in close before blowing our hair back with their complete sound.  Dressed to the nine’s, this sharp octet unleashed it’s dynamic set, adding a unique detail after the first song.  “We’re gonna freeze,” said Maceo, and the band froze in motion; creating at least a 30 second picture frozen frame, as the crowd cheered.  It was as if they were caught in the act, each remained completely motionless in playing position; maybe in hopes to engrain a permanent image in our minds.

“We don’t play jazz,” Parker said.  “That’s not what we do.”  Less than a minute after he kicked the band into a colorful jazz sample, he broke off the measure and injected the James Brown classic: “Let’s Make it Funky.”

During the rest of the show, Maceo Parker and his band delivered the expected- the whole funky package; an energy that forced everyone within ear to sway their hips in-sync; keeping the beat like some funky metronome.  Expect nothing less from Maceo, playing alto, tenor and baritone saxophone through a career that spans more than 48 years, working with the likes of Prince, Dave Matthews Band, Jane’s Addiction and The Red Hot Chilli Peppers to name a few.  Leaving him probably the most sampled horn player in history.

With touches of jazz and soul, he mostly stays rooted in his signature funk. He blew through songs with precise staccato attacks and a biting tenor sound; seasoning the crowd with his charisma in between.  Maceo’s passion and ability to captivate his audience is clear to see as he dances around the stage, while engaging his fellow joyful musicians.

Maceo Parker was inducted into North Carolina’s Music Hall of Fame last year.  His last album ‘Soul Classics’ pays homage to Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Issac Hays and of course his former employer James Brown.  For the rest of the year, his tour leads him out of the country; blowing the funk through Germany and France then back to the states in December for a few shows in Miami and San Francisco.

If given the chance to catch him, definitely grab it.  This accomplished and prolific musician creates the perfect mood and sound for a funky dance party; truly a transcendent experience for any fan of funk, R&B, jazz and soul.




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