By L. Paul Mann
Maceo Parker made it clear early on in his set at UCSB on a sleepy Sunday night that he plays funk music not jazz. In witty banter with the audience, he jokingly said, I love jazz, especially when I am reading a book or washing a car." Then to accentuate his point, the feisty saxophonist launched into a soft jazz duet with his brilliant pianist Will Boulware, which he interrupted with the quip, We don't do that. We do this," as he led his group into James Brown's classic Make It Funky." The phenomenal band included Parker and Boulware, as well as a who's who of funk music mavens, including Rodney Skeet Curtis (bassist of Parliament Funkadelic fame), Bruno Speight on guitar, Markus Parker (Maceo's nephew), on drums, Ron Tooley (James Brown's trumpet player), Dennis Rollins (Considered to be one of the best UK trombone players), and vocalist Martha High (also from the James Brown Band). Maceo Parker, himself had a long association with the James Brown band, playing in the group during some of their most productive years. He also played with the other grandmaster of funk music, George Clinton, in his former band Parliament-Funkadelic.
Parker led his red hot group of musicians through nearly three hours of blazing funk music over two long sets. The salacious singer shined brightest when playing his saxophone. At one point, he did a solo spotlight, going out into the audience and blowing notes up and down the aisles, mesmerizing fans in their seats. And all of the band's illustrious players also had a chance to showcase their talents with dynamic solos.
Parker had fans dancing in the aisles early on in the first set, uncharacteristic of the normally regimented UCSB Campbell Hall. The Funkmesiter won over the crowd with his charm and wit, offering humorous storytelling and a witty history of funk music from start to finish. At one point, Parker put on some sunglasses and mimicked Ray Charles while singing You Don't Know Me."
By the time Parker and the band launched into a frenzied finale, a medley including Pass The Peas," Soul Power" and Sex Machine," nearly everyone in the audience was fanatically dancing about the venue. Maceo Parker continues to keep funk alive for a whole new generation.
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