Maceo Gets Funky
The heat was oppressive as Day Five of the 40th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival got underway today. When the curtain came down this evening, it was even hotter, as legendary saxophonist Maceo Parker walked off the stage after a blistering 90-minute set.
James Brown gets all the credit, but you have to wonder just how much Maceo added to Brown's spicy stew. Actually, after watching Maceo perform tonight, there was no need to wonder. I knew Maceo Parker made an indelible contribution to Brown's effort, which is why Maceo has worked with the best in the business, including Ray Charles, Prince, George Clinton, De La Soul, James Taylor, Dave Matthews, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The 75-year old Maceo played his saxophone relying heavily on guttural tones, but he also played electric keyboards and the flute. Throughout the evening, he sang. I would have expected a more gravely voice, but on one long number (I believe a Ray Charles number), Maceo's voice was pure and smooth. One thing is for sure: Maceo keeps himself in tip-top shape, dressing like white-shoe lawyers did in the Eighties during the days of headlining corporate takeovers, Gordon Gekko, and Sherman McCoy.
It is hard to recall or even identify the songs that comprised the set list. At times, Maceo and company were riffing on very familiar themes. His cousin, Darlene Parker, did a fine rendition of Ben E. King's Stand By Me. Maceo and trombonist Dennis Rollins joined Darlene for a snatch of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On. Recognizing that this was a jazz festival, Maceo decided to do a speed-freak's version of several jazz standards, including Satin Doll. No surprise here, but there were lots of bits and pieces from James Brown and George Clinton along the way.
Song selection really didn't matter. The sound kept getting louder as the set progressed, and the audience worked itself into a frenzy, with scores of folks dancing in the aisles. Then a smartly attired women in a suit-like dress circulated among the backing musicians, finally pulling Maceo aside. Message delivered. Within ninety seconds, it was over. No encore.
I checked out Maceo's tour schedule online. Despite being one of the hardest working guys in show business, I suspect he would have played until midnight had no one pulled the proverbial plug. I certainly wish he had hit the Midnight Hour.
Throughout his performance, Maceo kept coming back to his core theme, Love. The audience certainly loved what they were hearing. Let's face it, there is only so long that anyone can listen to single note, atonal honks and screeches. When the sun goes down, it's time to shake it up. Now let's get some egg foo-young, chicken dumplings, and kidney stew at the Junction.
[Click on an Image to Enlarge It]
Waiting for Maceo in a Makeshift Living Room with Some Good Eats
Robinson's Provided the Barbecue
Stagehands Complete Their Work With Love
"Make It Funky"
Clap Hands, Say Yeah
Maceo Leaning In
Bruno "Tattaglia" Speight with Maceo Since 1992
"A Half a Pint of Horn"
"Oh My," and a Look
Darlene Parker Sings, While Cousin Maceo Plays
Will Boulware on Keyboards
Dennis Rollins in Black and White
"I Got a Bag of My Own"
Embracing the Audience
Standing in for the Audience
"I Got Ants in My Pants and Need to Dance"
Pete MacLean Keeping the Beat
Bruno in Black and White
Maceo in Black and White
Not a Bad Keyboard Player
Dennis Rollins Feeling the Groove
Rodney "Skeet" Curtis Providing the Bottom
There's a Riot Going On
Alone on the Stage with Just His Voice
"Are You Kidding? I Gotta Stop? But We Are Just Getting Started"
Good Night. And Remember, the Word is "Love"
Photographer's Notes: Being up front was great. If I were Maceo Parker, I would go with a wireless mike attached to the saxophone. The stationary mike locked him in position, and unfortunately, the bass player and his electric bass turned into distracting background clutter. I managed to work around the problem, but Maceo playing sax on one end of the stage with his adoring fans rushing the stage would have produced a dramatic image. A very minor complaint. A great evening of photography and music.