Around the time the commercial fortunes of James Brown began to slide in the mid-'70s, the founding father of old-school funk lost one of his band's key players: Maceo Parker packed up his sax and headed for the future. Along with trombonist-arranger Fred Wesley, Parker hooked up with funk's next major architect, Parliament/Funkadelic's George Clinton. The sax man's sassy phrasing, which exploits the alto horn's "talking" character, was the perfect complement to J.B.'s proto-raps and graced the cream of Parliament's catalog, including Mothership Connection
and Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome
, as well as numerous P-Funk spinoffs.
The change of venue didn't change his style much -- just the backdrop. Parker has called his sound "5 percent jazz, 95 percent funk," which aptly describes his ability to strut, bob, and weave atop a stretch of infectious groove while remaining as tethered to the beat as the drummer man's bass pedal. The results are party jams of the highest order. Reunited frequently on disc with J.B. and various P-Funksters over the past two decades, Parker drew heavily and successfully on those prime sources for his latest solo effort, last year's School's In, which sported some ear-grabbing horn charts as well. Don't expect to stand still.