Well, here’s a name that certainly doesn’t need any introduction. As the man behind the man, Maceo Parker blared out some of the most soulful soul-wrenching grooves known to R&B for the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Now continuing his electric odyssey into the heart of soul music, the saxman offers yet another slice of his creative skill on this dual live CD set with the WDR Big Band that features a stirring tribute to another major icon, Ray Charles, on the first CD and a dedication to funk on the second. The big band effect works remarkably well on the first CD, and Parker’s uncanny Ray Charles-like vocals dress the blues in its finest attire.
From the raring first track, "Hallelujah I Love Her So" through the bone-rattling "What’d I Say," the first CD would surely make Ray nod and grin in that infectious schoolboyish way he had about him. You can actually see the blues master through the visuals created by Parker in this riveting tribute. A stellar job.
On CD #2, funk takes center stage, opening with the brawny "Uptown Up," complete with bright and harmonious horns leading the way and a gutsy, low-riding bass holding up the bottom. A nasty little EWI solo is just frosting on this cake. The piece is followed by "To Be Or Not To Be," energetic and begging-for-a-dance-partner stuff. It's bottom-heavy with major doses of horn funk, including a blazing, crisp solo by one Karolina Strassmayer on alto sax (Candy Dulfer & Mindi Abair, get the door, you’ve got company!) You just can never get enough of this kind of rousing music. The third track "Off the Hook," with its thumping bass and I-dare-you-to-sit-down bravado, keeps the party going and is truly deserving of its title. The piece features Parliament/Funkadelic alumnus "Skeet" Curtis on a very talkative bass. The crowd obviously loves it! The big band effect works only in spots for me here and elsewhere on this particular CD. This stuff has to go totally "raw," in my opinion. "Shake Everything You Got" is surely to compel all who are within earshot to do just that. Overall, this is funk at its finest by one who just ought to know.
This project demonstrates that Maceo Parker remains at the top of his game, and the two great giants who are called to mind upon listening to this collection must be proud of his relentless and continuous pursuit of soul/funk and blues. A big, fat "A" for overall effort and quality.