Picks and Pans Review: Roots Revisited

updated 01/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/14/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

Maceo Parker

Maceo Parker is best known as a horn-toting henchman for the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. For most of the last quarter century, Parker has greased the gears of Brown's bump-and-grind sex machine with his hot-buttered saxophone solos.

Taking a sabbatical from the JB Horns in the mid-'70s, Parker added earthy grit to the electro-funk of Bootsy's Rubber Band and George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic groups. More recently, while the Godfather has been serving his six-year term in an Aiken, S.C., prison, Parker put together an old-fashioned jump band for a delightful excursion in search of his prefunk roots.

Kicking things off with the Ray Charles classic "Them That Got." Parker eases into a swinging groove. His broad tone and springy rhythmic lines on alto are set off nicely by the tight ensemble playing of tenor saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, trombonist Fred Wesley, guitarist Rodney Jones and drummer Bill Stewart. Meanwhile Don Pullen weighs in with gospel-inflected harmonies on organ, giving the proceedings a sanctified feel. The band turns Charles Mingus's "Better Get Hit in You' Soul" and the Jay McShann-Charlie Parker dance hall song "Jumpin' the Blues" into rump-roller romps. And Parker reveals a deep understanding of the blues on both an original, "Children's World," and a mournful interpretation of "Over the Rainbow."

Sly Stone's "In Time," the session closer, serves as a reminder that Parker is still capable of getting downright funky, in the event Brown is ready to pick things up where he left off. (Verve)

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