It was his unforgettable solos for legendary entertainer James Brown in 1960s’ that helped Maceo Parker steal the spotlight and catapult a solo career as a funk and soul jazz saxophonist. As a part of the Indy Jazz Fest, Parker will be celebrating music as he performs at the Madame Walker Theatre Sept. 12 at 8 p.m. The Recorder got a chance to speak with Parker as he prepared to grace the stage.
Recorder: You have experienced and accomplished a lot since the 60s’.What has been the highlight of your jazz career?
Parker: I did a project with a group in Germany called WDR Big Band where I performed Ray Charles music. I’m excited about doing what I do. As a kid I always hoped to travel around the world and perform. I’m thrilled and thankful just to be invited to visit places.
Over the years you have musically mastered multiple instruments including the piano. How did you know the saxophone was the instrument that would bring your career to its feet?
During early television, I saw a lot of big bands where the saxophone player would get up from behind the orchestra and walk to the center of the stage, then play a solo. I thought that was really cool. To see people on stage reading music and then all of a sudden it’s a switch of pace when the soloist comes up. I knew I could do it. I started playing piano when I was 3 years old but my mother told me “the piano isn’t a marching band instrument and you’re going to need one to do what they do.” Ever since then I played the saxophone.
You are known for your startup with the late James Brown. How did you get involved with him during his music career?
My brothers and I always had a band together. My older brother played the trombone and my younger brother played the drums. James Brown heard my brother play the drums somewhere and wanted to hire him on the spot but he was still in school at that time. There was a time when we weren’t college students and went to James Brown and said “Hey Mr. Brown you met us a few years ago and wanted us to be in your band but said you didn’t want us to leave school, now we aren’t in school anymore.” We were then hired.
How do you feel about headlining your own show in the city?
I always imagined performing under my own name. It’s different to be under someone else’s name, but to have it done under your own name, its like wow! Sometime you have to be careful what you wish for.
Since being able to perform solo, what is something you hope to embed within your audience?
I try to push love as much as possible. I think we as people should sympathize love just a little more because if we did, we wouldn’t have so much division. If we push love with our kids, it would spill over with the next generation. Doing good deeds and expressing love in all of my performances is what I am all about.
To purchase tickets to Parker’s show, visit walkertheatre.com or call (317) 966-7854.