Maceo Parker will perform a concert based on his 2018 release "It's All About Love" on Thursday, Sept. 26. The musician will be accompanied by his own Maceo Parker Big Band, which includes former members of the Ray Charles Orchestra and features Charles' backing vocalists, The Raelettes. Image: Laurent Graffion
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saxophonist Maceo Parker, who helped pioneer the sounds of soul and funk with the likes of James Brown and George Clinton, will perform "It's All About Love" at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, in Eisenhower Auditorium on Penn State's University Park campus. Parker will be backed by his big band, which includes former members of the Ray Charles Orchestra and features the Raelettes.
"Maceo Parker is a funk titan," wrote a critic for the San Jose Mercury News. "His body of work is as important to the genre as those belonging to James Brown, George Clinton and Bootsy Collins, all of whom have collaborated with Parker. On a broader level, Parker must be regarded as simply one of the all-time great saxophonists. He stretched the boundaries of music, fashioned a new style of playing and, most importantly, made some truly great music."
Anchored in music from his 2018 album, "It's All About Love" will include hits from Crosby, Stills & Nash, Stevie Wonder, and the Isley Brothers; signature songs of Ray Charles; and Parker classics such as "Pass the Peas." Parker will sing and play his way through an evening that transports audiences to the most soulful of eras.
"'It's All About Love' soars with Parker's signature raw, soulful voice and saxophone playing, as well as upbeat, funky band arrangements," wrote a reviewer for the Seattle Times. "He's no bebopper, reborn or otherwise. His roots are the church and the blues," noted a writer for DownBeat.
Watch Parker perform "Make it Funky."
Born in 1943 in North Carolina, Parker began playing saxophone in his pre-teen years and performed in a band with his brothers. By the late 1950s, he was particularly influenced by Charles, who had already become a major figure in rhythm and blues.
"I got into Ray at a very early age," Parker said. "I'd listen to him sing, and I'd try to equate that with playing the saxophone. ... He was always the cat for me."
Parker joined Brown's band in 1964. The first songs he recorded with the group, "I Feel Good" and "Out of Sight," became some of the most famous of Brown's canon. His first solo album, "Us," came out in 1974. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, he was a featured musician in Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic and Collins' Rubber Band. He then returned to Brown's band for a time. Since the turn of the century, he has recorded and performed with Germany's WDR Big Band.
Artistic Viewpoints, an informal discussion moderated by State College jazz musician Rick Hirsch and featuring a visiting artist or artists, is offered one hour before the performance and is free for ticket holders. Artistic Viewpoints regularly fills to capacity, so seating is available on a first-arrival basis.
Saxophonist Maceo Parker and his Big Band will perform on Sept. 26, 2019, as one of eight performances highlighting the Center for the Performing Arts 2019-20 season focus, "The American Experience: Through an African-American Lens". IMAGE: Boris Brever