MACEO PARKER | Bristol, Colston Hall

Despite being a headline act at the Bristol International Jazz and Blues Festival, Maceo Parker made no bones about not strictly falling within these genres.  Instead, he promised a precise serving of 98% funk and 2% jazz.  The jazz was quickly disposed of at the outset in a comical romp through Elliington’s ‘Satin Doll’, after which the audience knew they were in for a non-stop funk-fest.

Maceo’s saxophone soul licks quickly had the crowd on their feet and in the aisles relentlessly shaking everything they got.  His band was the definitive professional funk outfit and they served up a slick show which delivered exactly what it said on the tin: the crowd wanted two hours of pure funk with a groove in the very deepest of pockets; extended solos that induced gurns of delight and perfectly choreographed backing singers straight from James Brown’s heyday – and that is exactly what they got.  At times it felt as though the performers were on the verge of becoming extravagant caricatures of funk-star parodies, but Maceo’s freeze frame finishes, soulful hollers and playful judderings as he rambled around the stage were the welcome showmanship of a legend at work.

The funky elephant in the room was whether Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis (both of whom were due to appear the next day at the festival in a separate concert) would make an appearance to reunite the holy triumvirate that carved and completed James Brown’s iconic sound in the 1960s.  Pee Wee received a hero’s welcome when he shuffled on stage for a brief blow through a blues number, but it was swiftly back to business.  Maceo had promised 98% funk and the audience were left 100% satisfied.

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