Maceo Parker: “Roots and Grooves”

February 29th, 2008 § 0 comments

I discovered Maceo Parker my freshman year of college, and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since. His appearance at Celebrate Brooklyn in 2006 was undoubtedly the most enjoyable concert I’ve ever attended. Should he come back to New York in the future, I’d be prepared to shell out almost any asking price for a ticket. I’ve purchased all his most recent recordings, too, so I was thrilled to find out that he’d released a new record, “Roots and Grooves“, a two-disk set featuring the WDR Big Band (Westdeutscher Rundfunk/West German Radio). As soon as I listened to a single iTunes 30-second preview, I knew I’d be plunking down fifteen bucks for the whole thing.

The first disc, “Tribute to Ray Charles”, features eight Charles numbers, performed impeccably by Parker and WDRBB. Somehow, his gravelly voice, normally confined to celebratory shouts and yelps at live shows (“Shucks!, Good God!”), fits the covers perfectly. I particularly enjoyed “Busted” and “Hit the Road Jack”.

The second disc, subtitled “Back to Funk”, is where it gets going. Rather than record a stack of new tunes, Parker reaches back into the vault for a fistful of hits to re-record with the help of the WDR band and current band members Dennis Chambers (drums) and Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass). The pair are fantastic together, and the rhythm section is incredibly tight. Between intricate licks by Chambers and grimy slap-bass by Curtis, my head started snapping and I was grinning like an idiot instantaneously.

I was especially delighted to find a big-band enhanced, well-recorded version of The JB’s classic “Pass the Peas”, which I first came across on “Life on Planet Groove” several years ago. The song, and its performance on that record, is fantastic, but the sound quality is abysmal, sorely lacking in bass and with treble so crispy it’s hard to listen to. Where the first version fails, this one succeeds.

Look, just go and buy the record. It’s the filthiest, funkiest album I’ve heard in ages.

Maceo Parker’s Website
iTunes link for good measure

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