Razor & Tie
BluesWax Rating: 8 out of 10
These Soul Classics Roar Like Never Before
Maceo Parker reunites with the WDR Big Band recorded live at the Leverkusener Jazz Festival in Germany in November of 2011. This funky and fun outing features Parker’s signature saxophone with the stellar bassist Christian McBride (a solo artists himself); drummer Cora Coleman-Dunham, who collaborate with the Cologne-based fifteen-piece, explosive big-band orchestra. The music is arranged by Michael Abene. Most will recall that Parker was James Brown’s saxophonist for a chunk of the late soul singer’s most productive years. No further introductions needed.
Speaking of JB, the first track, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” blasts right out your speakers with the big band blaring, McBride’s electric (not standup) bass thumping the rump, and Parker firing with solid vocals and with his horn. The next soul project is Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” (performed instrumentally), and it’s another good one with clavinet and all. Maceo’s in charge from the get-go, as the big band throws roundhouse punches from the floor – Whew! Now it’s blues time with Gamble and Huff’s “Yesterday I Had the Blues.” Parker sings this one, but I found this one to meander on for a bit too long at nearly eight minutes. Wonder gets a second spin as the band destructs “Higher Ground.” Cora Coleman-Dunham’s drumming is spectacular, the charts dazzle, and Maceo digs down on this honking and funky bash that’s performed sans vocals. Deep grooves permeate on Isaac Hayes’ “Do Your Thing” (performed instrumentally). Listen to the big-band horns haunting charts which are the perfect vehicle for Maceo to slowly drive and up-shift throughout. It’s Aretha time with “Rock Steady.” Especially steady here is McBride’s pumping bass lines that ignite the horns; Maceo sings and seems to be having a ball, you will be too as this track flies off the rails. Back to Maceo’s ex-boss with JB’s “Soul Power” (no vocals) that powers on dynamically for nearly seven minutes. The curtain falls with Maceo’s “Come By and See Me” as their last track. Maceo vocalizes proudly, takes a strong sax solo, the big band horns turn up the heat, and the party is over!
Having a house party soon? Turn this baby on and watch your loved ones tear up the carpets. No surprise as Maceo and his various bands (with and without JB) have been doing this for decades, may he never stop! Funk on out!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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