Maceo Parker was born on February 14, 1943 in Kinston North Carolina. Both of his parents had a passion for music and sang in their church choir, but it was his uncle who had a stronger influence of Maceo’s musical development. His uncle was a member of a local band called The Blue Notes. Upon watching rehearsals, Maceo would take up the saxophone, while his brothers experimented with the drums and the trombones. Through time and dedication Maceo and his brothers learned how to play extremely well. Their uncle titled them The Junior Blue Notes and allowed them to play in between sets at the Blue Note shows. By the time he enrolled in North Carolina A&T to major in music, he was an toted as an experienced professional.
In 1963 Maceo and his brother Melvin landed a spot in James Brown’s band. After his amazing tenor sax solo in Brown’s 1965 smash hit “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” Maceo became one of the lucky members of Brown’s touring and recording band. His solos were an essential part of some of Brown’s best known songs, including “I Got You (I Feel Good), “Sex Machine,” “Cold Sweat,” and “Mother Popcorn.” In 1990, Maceo stepped out as a solo act, with a jazz album known as Roots Revisited (which spent 10 weeks at the top of Billboard Jazz Charts). Throughout the 1990s, Parker released a steady flow of solo records, while making guest appearances on albums by Brooklyn Funk Essentials, De La Soul, 10,000 Maniacs and Bryan Ferry. His third album “Life on Planet Groove,” became a funk fans favorite. Planet Groove reached the masses and boosted Parkers street credit with the younger college crowd. It was during this time he created his catch phrase “2% Jazz, 98% Funky Stuff.”
In 1999, funk fanatic Prince recruited Maceo to play on his album Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. He continued to contribute to Prince’s studio projects over the next decade, and performed with him live. Maceo worked with many artists including, alternative folk rock diva Ani Difranco. In 1998, Maceo and his band were the opening act on tour for the Dave Matthews Band! In recent years, Maceo produced an incredible two disc set called Roots and Grooves. One side of the disc was dedicated to Ray Charles as he recorded his material backed by the WDR Big Band, while the other featured some incredible contemporary jazz tunes that have become fan favorites. Maceo recently released his latest CD, Soul Classics where he’s recorded just that, Soul Classics.
No one plays the alto saxophone like Maceo Parker! WEAA takes this time to celebrate his life and music contributions; turning 70 this month, he is our Jazz Master of the Month. Tune in all month long to hear various tunes written and played by Maceo Parker.