Saturday, January 24, 2015

Roving Pittsburgher Report, Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker at the Byham

Let's Get Funky, A Review of Maceo Parker

by Good News Reporter, Joanne Quinn-Smith

Just attending the Maceo Parker concert at the Byham Theater on January 16 would have been enough to convince you that his fans are an eclectic group ranging from James Brown era boomers to current college students.  I was a accompanied by my nephew Josh Kurnot, 23 year old, Mechanical Engineering Student from West Virginia University.  He had never heard of Maceo and quickly became a fan. Maceo is known as the funkadylic sax of the James Brown Band.  

Now a little education for those of you are not schooled in the music genre called "funk."  It is a genre that originated in the mid
picture by Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
to late 1960s when African-American musicians discovered the rhythmic, danceable combination of soul music, jazz and R&B using the strong rhythm groove of electric bass and drums and in, my mind, hi-lighting brass instruments.  Funk uses the same extended chords as bepop jazz, often extending one vamp on a single chord.  James Brown developed the signature "groove" that emphasized the downbeat leaning heavily on the first beat of every measure, funky bass line, drum patterns and syncopated guitar riffs.

Not getting it yet?  Getting funky with these extended vamps will have your head bopping, dancing, dancing in your seats and having fun especially if it is to Maceo Parker's famed alto sax and the amazing trombone of Dennis Rollins who often graces the audience along with Maceo in vocals with his sultry deep baritone.

At 72, Maceo is still the consummate performer. He and his "super band" are the epitome of funk entertainment.  Each is a celebrated musician in his own right making the audience experience delightful for "smorgasbord listening."  Dennis Rollins on trombone, Will Boulware on keyboards, Bruno Speight on guitar, Rodney “Skeet” Curtis on bass, Marcus Parker (son of Maceo’s brother and long-time drumming partner Melvin) on drums, Martha High singing backup and Darliene Parker (Maceo’s cousin) singing backup as well.

Darliene Parker adds so much energy and absolute mirth and sex appeal to the backup singing but her solo of "Stand by Me" could almost stand alone along with her scat duo with Maceo on the flute.  Spellbinding!

picture by Josh Kurnot
The band truly is a family affair as some of the performers actually date back to Maceo's stint with George Clinton with his bands Parliament and Funkadelic.  A musician whose resume includes James Brown, Parliament-Funkadelic and Prince, among others, would only bring entertainment giants to the stage.

These musicians perform as though they were born to be on the stage, performing.  And it is obvious they are having a rollicking good time with joking and comical antics.  The show is a musical rodeo that really ropes you in with equal parts of fun antics and exciting musical execution.  We should all have careers where we have as much fun as Maceo's band does. And this translated to the live performance at the Byham.

The entire band stacked one musical showcase of their individual talents on top of each other.   Each band member had an opportunity
picture by Josh Kurnot
to strut their stuff, with at least one if not more opportunities for a solo performance showcasing each of their outstanding talents.

In old-school jazz show fashion, the band led off the night vamping a Latin groove as the back-up singers announced a “Funky Fiesta.” Soon, Parker took the stage, and the show moved into full-on funk time with “Off the Hook,” as in the funk is off the hook. It’s a Parker concert chestnut, as are “Make It Funky” (a James Brown number)"Baby Knows" and "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."  There are also tributes to Marvin Gay and of course Maceo's impression of and tribute to Ray Charles.

Still Maceo's mesmerizing saxophone playing remains the biggest reason to go see his show. Whether in tandem bouts with Boyer or soloing on his own, he retains the style and substance that made him a funk icon. Lest we forget “I Got You (I Feel Good)"--James Brown, James can be heard in many recordings shouting, "Maceo, I want to blow." Even James was a fan!  Maceo is fond of saying that his music is 98% funky stuff and only 2% Jazz and he has a book out by the same name:

If you missed the show and you get a chance, please for the memory of your life, don't make the second mistake twice.

Joanne Quinn-Smith, Award winning internet radio broadcaster,
blogger, author and internet radio and TV network editor and publisher. Joanne is the owner and CEO, Creative Energy Officer, of Dreamweaver Marketing Associates, a successful Pittsburgh-based marketing company. She is a grandmother and great grandmother, an unlikely trendsetter for online journalism and broadcasting. Joanne is internationally known as the “Get Your Google On” Gal. But better known as Techno Granny™ to over one million accumulated online listeners worldwide. Joanne has created a revolutionary online NEW MEDIA platform in Internet broadcasting, blogging and other social media participation that represents the new second generation of World Wide Web interactions, known in technology circles as Web 2.0. JQS is the online publisher of, an online community magazine to disseminate the Positive News for Positive Pittsburghers. PPL Mag is Pittsburgh’s First Internet radio and TV network with syndicated channels and online radio and TV capabilities. 

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