Maceo Parker | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Maceo Parker



Maceo Parker

If James Brown is indeed the Godfather of Soul, he could never have found a better consigliere than Maceo Parker, the alto man who gained fame in front of the J.B. Horns. His big sound oozes from the instrument, with a slippery and confident sensuality; that same quality also shows up in his hard, devilish smile. As the lead voice, Parker successfully molded the band's explosive little horn sections in his own image, thus leaving nearly as giant a footprint on funk as Brown did with his patented squeals, grunts, and splits. With all that shakin' goin' on, it's no wonder Parker's own albums of the early 90s took both jazz and soul fans by surprise, with their smooth harmonies and mostly uncompromised jazz-blues solos by Parker and colleagues like trombonist Fred Wesley and saxist Pee Wee Erwin; the repertoire included the occasional chestnut from the mainstream catalog ("Georgia on My Mind," Charles Mingus's "Better Git Hit in Your Soul"), and Parker revealed a penchant for jump-band rhythms that must have had Louis Jordan shagging in his grave. Soul has always held an important place in jazz, and you can't find much more soul than in Parker's brand of jazz--on a good night he can still generate enough power and light to shame those acid jazzers who took their original cues from his music. Most funk bands face the constant threat of sailing into the tired-soul doldrums at some point in their set; after all, as soon as the energy flags, you're left with the relative monotony of most of the material. But Wesley's presence in this septet should help insure against that: he matches his funk credentials with an especially strong appreciation for the well-constructed jazz solo. Parker headlines a triple bill, with local bands Swimmer and the Crown Royals plying the dance-groove current of the jazz-funk stream. Tuesday, 9 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-527-2583 or 312-923-2000. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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