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Sax Player Maceo Parker Feels Very, Very Good About Hit Album

“Maceo, come blow your horn!”

It was one of the most riveting requests in soul music--a striking example of passionate pop theater: James Brown, reaching the peak of one of his patented emotional excursions, would suddenly turn and, with a gesture of sheer exhaustion, make the urgent demand for alto saxophonist-bandleader Maceo Parker to take over the spotlight.

Ironically, late last year, while Brown was in jail for aggravated assault and failure to stop for a police officer, Parker stepped out on his own with a hit recording, “Roots Revisited.”

“I’m still trying to figure out my reaction,” Parker, 47, says. “I really do sometimes get at a loss for words. I keep thinking, ‘Now, come on, this can’t be true.’

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“And then people who work in record stores tell me, ‘This album’s outsold anything we’ve had in the jazz department for the last month,’ and I say, ‘Come on, don’t tell me that.’ It’s really taken me a while to grasp the fact that the album is doing as well as it is.”

In the years when he was not working with Brown, Parker made a few albums of his own with a group called All the King’s Men, and hooked up with George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, the Horny Horns, Bobby Byrd and the J.B. All Stars. Lately, he’s been getting more studio calls than he can handle, with several rappers reportedly entranced with the surging emotional energy his horn playing brings to the rigid rhythms of their electronic sampling.

But the success of “Roots” has made Parker a star in his own right.

The band just finished a run through Southern California that included an appearance on “The Tonight Show.” He plays tonight with the band Deeelite on “Saturday Night Live.”

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“Actually,” he says, “leading my own band is not at all uncomfortable to me because James would always call me up front to do my own thing.

“But now my name’s a little bigger on the marquee.”


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