Maceo Parker Shouts Out 'Roots & Grooves' When James Brown's funky horn section got cooking, the Godfather of Soul would call up Maceo Parker for a solo. The saxophonist has since launched his own solo career: His new double album is packed with funky jams and a tribute to Ray Charles.
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Maceo Parker Shouts Out 'Roots & Grooves'

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Maceo Parker Shouts Out 'Roots & Grooves'

Maceo Parker Shouts Out 'Roots & Grooves'

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

Here at NPR, we interview hundreds of people. And sometimes, when we sit down for a chat, before we actually get down to business, there's a small question that just has to be asked.

That's what happened when I spoke with James Brown's legendary sax player Maceo Parker.

Mr. Parker, when people greet you, do you find that they can't just say Maceo, that they want to scream your name the way James Brown did?

Mr. MACEO PARKER (Saxophone player): It happens all the time.

NORRIS: Does it?

Mr. PARKER: Yeah, with the Good God, and, you know, Eee and all that. And sometimes they expect me to fall down on my knees, while they can put their overcoat over my shoulders, you know, to stand on.

(Soundbite of laughter)

NORRIS: Now, a bit of explanation here. Maceo Parker's sax-playing and his name were a feature of James Browns live performances. When the godfather of soul's funky horn section got hooking, James Brown would call for a solo, and there was one name he calls most of all.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JAMES BROWN (Singer): (Singing) Maceo, come on now. Brother, what it was that now? Let them have it.

Oh, no.

Put it all up.

Oh. Blow your horns. Yeah.

NORRIS: Though James Brown first made Maceo Parker's name famous, the saxophonist have gone on to make quite a name for himself, playing with a wide range of artists, including George Clinton, Prince, Bryan Ferry, Keith Richards, and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Maceo Parker also launched a solo career. Last week, he released his latest album, a two-disc set right before his 65th birthday. It's called "Roots & Grooves." And Maceo Parker told me that his musical roots began at the keyboard.

Mr. PARKER: I was a piano player. I love piano playing. I just love all music. But then, I remembered to be very, very, very excited about my first parade, you know, it's a fan fare of all the horns and drums and just noise. You know, uniforms and majorettes and all that stuff. And I want to do that. And it's - whereas a piano - I just can't have a piano. Oh, that's - okay.

Well, maybe I can play one of those things right there. And it just so happen the saxophone line was coming by, and that's how I chose a saxophone.

NORRIS: Just like that.

Mr. PARKER: Just like that.

NORRIS: It could have been a clarinet.

Mr. PARKER: No, I always tease the trombone. Listen, I'll think that this was a trombone.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: On your latest CD, "Roots & Grooves," you devote an entire disc to Ray Charles. Tell me why.

Mr. PARKER: Well, I think that this is (unintelligible). When he did that A-side B-side on, quite I say, men, we break down the house. We did. Me and my routine from school one day.

At first, we will always just turn the radio on.

(Singing) That bom, bo, bo, bom, bei, bong, bei, bei, bei, bei bang, came on and, oh, we went absolutely crazy, I mean, absolutely crazy.

You know, it was easy for me to hear him. And what I mean by that is, I could almost hear his feelings when he sang. Every time he released an album, I'd get it. Because you know what, man if I could play saxophone, some solo with the same kind of feeling, you know, the intensity or soul foul stuff (unintelligible) can get that same kind of thing that Ray Charles gets when he sing, then somebody got a life.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: On this CD, you have one disc that's devoted to Ray Charles. On the second disc, it's called "Back to the Funk." And I mean no disrespect in asking this question, but how do you keep it funky at this age?

Mr. PARKER: Well, just, you know, I just discovered, you know, when I sort of search my soul and my inner self, you know, what I'm about. This is very easy for me to hear funky lines.

So, I just thought that was, you know, like, he was born with it, you know. That that guy can hit the ball and pitch the ball on - well, I was just a boy wishing, but I keep going out of love. I've always loved performing, and especially love for the people. That's what keeps me going.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Maceo Parker, I have simply enjoyed talking to you.

Mr. PARKER: My pleasure. Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: To hear full songs from "Roots & Grooves" and archived interviews with Maceo Parker, visit our music Web site,

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