English text follows
„2 % Jazz, 98 % Funky Stuff“ ist seit Erscheinen des Live-Albums „Life on Planet Groove“ 1992 zum Markenzeichen des Ex-James Brown Saxophonisten Maceo Parker geworden.
Doch angefangen hatte diese explosive Mischung in einem anderen Verhältnis 1990, als sein Solo-Album „Roots Revisited“ in Europa und den USA die Charts hochkletterte: da standen eher Soul, R´n´B und Jazz, eben die Musik mit der er aufwuchs, im Zentrum einer Frischzellenkur. Weil das alles so gar nicht nach Retro klang, sondern die Essenz dieser Musik wieder freispülte, konnte sich ein junges Publikum voll drauf einlassen .
Und mit Fred Wesley und Pee Wee Ellis hatte er nun den besten kleinen Bläsersatz der Welt zur Verfügung. Alle drei konnten ihre Talente als Instrumentalisten, Komponisten, Arrangeure und Stimmungskanonen in Gänze entfalten. Dieses Team gepaart mit einer wesentlichen jüngeren Rhythm Section, die sowohl über die Feinheiten des Jazz verfügte als auch den Eindruck machte, ihren Funk mit der Muttermilch eingesogen zu haben, bildeten eine Band als „working team in progress“. Maceos Gespür für Talente sollte ihm Recht geben, Bill Stewart und Larry Goldings waren damals noch völlig unbekannt und am Anfang ihrer Karrieren.
In Deutschland fand im Herbst 1990 die erste Tournee statt, wo auch die entscheidenden Vorbereitungen für die Konzeptionierung des Roots Revisited – Albums im damaligen Kölner Büroloft von Minor Music begonnen hatten.
Es gibt immer wieder Europatourneen, die in die Geschichte eingehen und anhand von mehreren Tonträgern auch der Nachwelt einen kleinen Einblick vermitteln, was sie verpasst hat. Miles Davis mit John Coltrane 1960, Charlie Mingus 1964, Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers 1987, Lenny Kravitz 1990 sind ein paar dieser Beispiele, wo jeden Abend eine ungehörte Energie sich kreativ entfesselte.
So geschah es auch in den rund 2 Wochen im Herbst 1990 als Roots Revisited den Grundstein für Maceo Parkers weltweite Solo-Karriere in die Konzertpodien eingroovten. Von den Höhepunkten in Hamburg, Köln und Bremen ist erfreulicherweise das komplette Bremen-Konzert von Radio Bremen bestens konserviert worden, so dass nach sorgfältiger Überspielung der Analog Bändermit modernster Digitaltechnik nun erstmals in optimaler Klangqualität eine Veröffentlichung eines Konzertes dieser Tour vorgelegt werden kann, pünktlich zum 25 jährigen Jubiläum.
Erhältlich als CD und Download. Eine audiophile Edition ist als DLP und HD Download in 24bit/192khz erhältlich.
VÖ: 23.10.2015 MM 801147 im Vertrieb der Inakustik
Live recordings are, by definition, a snapshot in time, a backbeat of memory, a droplet of adrenalin forever suspended in amber. No live show can be the same as any other. Each encap-
sulates its own mood, energy levels, inspiration (and mistakes, if they haven’t been edited out…). Often, that can prove its primary strength, when a confluence of musicians appears together, for one night only, in a performance that flares with an intense force. Think of Les McCann’s and Eddie Harris’ Swiss Movement, something of a fluke, a brilliant fluke, recorded at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival.
But as part of a tour, the most enduring live recordings deliver an additional, broader context, summoning up the overall spirit, the predominant mood, the zeitgeist, of that group of musicians in the process of evolving a chemistry between themselves, as well as with their audiences. Live In Bremen does precisely that. It celebrates 25 years since the release of Maceo Parker’s breakthrough album Roots Revisited, which propelled him forwards – from a career as a James Brown and George Clinton sideman to influential leader in his own right – and back towards the music that he listened to growing up. This Bremen show is a definitive distillation of the band Maceo took out on tour after the album’s release, a tour which connected him to a younger audience, encountering for the first time his music, his showmanship and his authenticity.
The taproot of that band was the coming together of two generations of musicians. The elder (though absolutely not elderly, just older) were the three horns who had worked so often together in the James Brown bands – Maceo himself on alto sax, tenor player Pee Wee Ellis, and trombonist Fred Wesley. Their younger rhythm section came out of the New York jazz scene: Larry Goldings on organ, with Rodney Jones on guitar and Bill Stewart on drums.
This fusion had been sparked at Augie’s Jazz Bar in New York. Larry Goldings, originally from Boston, a student with Keith Jarrett, had a regular couple of nights there. He remembers ‘Augie’s was up near Columbia University, a kind of hole-in-the-wall place, no stage. Augie was a jazz fan. He didn’t pay, but it was a place you could play and pass the bucket round. There was no piano there so I played organ.’
One night Maceo Parker turned up to catch a show by Larry’s trio. In fact he was there to check out Bill Stewart, the drummer. David Baker (a much respected, now much missed, jazz engineer) had recommended Bill to Maceo as he started pulling together a band for Roots Revisited.
At Augie’s Bill’s drum work easily lived up to expectations, but there was an unanticipated
bonus. Maceo was equally impressed by the organist. ‘It blew me away to see and hear
Larry. I almost forgot that I was there to hear the drummer. It had that level of impact.’
What caught Maceo’s ear and eye was Larry’s two-keyboard set-up, which allowed him
to play the bass part with his left hand. This was the result of a panic phone call one
evening from percussionist Leon Parker, another of Augie’s regulars, who was short of a bass player and knew Larry liked to play walking bass. He gave it a go. It worked, and the two organ set-up became a fixture.
Larry had noticed Maceo in the club, and thought ‘Who’s that dude, seems like he’s
somebody…’ Introductions were made during the break between sets. That evening
opened up some ways forward for Maceo. ‘As a musician you try to address what is in front of you. There are always possibilities to do this or that. You have to weigh those different possibilities and make a decision.’
As it turned out Bill Stewart got the drum seat for the Roots Revisited album but Larry had to wait his turn (Don Pullen handled keyboards on the album sessions). Shortly afterwards Maceo placed the call to Larry to join him for the tour. ‘His leap of faith was flattering. The organ was something I was still exploring as part of the group sound. But I guess he liked what he heard.’ Maceo also appreciated the sound of guitarist Rodney Jones – who’d worked with Dizzy Gillespie and Lena Horne – to complete the line-up.
This recording, from November 1990, comes from the latter half of that tour, which mixed dates at smaller jazz clubs with a handful of festival appearances. Bremen fell somewhere in between, a larger venue holding around 800. The audience there was predominantly in their 20s and 30s, not a typical jazz audience, producer Stephan Meyner says. Shortly after the release of Roots Revisited, which had performed as well in Germany as in the States (where it had topped the Billboard jazz charts), they wanted to hear that mix of jazz and RnB, and funk.
That the recording is of the Bremen gig is significant. For the smaller jazz club dates on the tour, the show had been in two sets, but for this larger venue there would be just the one set, with fewer numbers (for example, ‘Children’s World’, a reworking of ‘It’s A Man’s World’, and a staple of the other shows is not included). And this, according to Stephan Meyner, helps demonstrate Maceo’s skill at constructing the overall shape of a performance. Larry Goldings also recognises this. ‘Maceo did everything with entertainment and a sense of theatre. He is a natural showman, nothing forced or corny.’
So the show opens with the rhythm trio – Larry, Rodney and Bill – casting a jazz groove over proceedings. Maceo Parker enjoyed that moment, as he could sit back and listen to the trio. ‘I had a lot of time to check them out, and I’d think, “Hey, these guys are good”.’
On Fred Wesley’s tune ‘For The Elders’, the three horns come in, announcing with flair and impact the blend of jazz and funk at the heart of the chemistry on display. Larry Goldings says, ‘I learnt so much from the front line as an ensemble. They had a deep understanding of each other. Maceo would play a spontaneous little riff and the other guys would fall in and play it. I saw that night after night. They had been doing it for years with James Brown.’
After all that time working together the three horns, in Maceo’s words, were ‘in awe of each other’s accomplishments. We each had a tremendous amount of respect for the musicianship of the other two’.
After two Maceo numbers, including the rootsy shuffle of ‘Up And Down East Street’, followed by Fred Wesley’s ‘Peace Fugue’, there’s a magical moment on ‘Everywhere Is Out Of Town’ where the three horns parade through the hall, bringing a New Orleans vibe right into the heart of the audience.
Producer Stephan Meyner identifies Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready’ and Ray Charles’ ‘Them That Got’, as another highlight of the recording: two classic tracks, refreshed, revived and re-energised by the combination of jazz and funk, lifted to a new level of consciousness. Along with the gorgeous Van Morrison ballad ‘Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart’ (Pee Wee Ellis played on the original’) they reflect both the opportunity Roots Revisited gave Maceo to reach back to the music he headed out from, and the
learning inherent in reinterpreting standards.
There’s a sense of learning all round. Maceo describes the James Brown years as a university: ‘Every day was like a graduation day for us’. For Larry Goldings (who in passing says guitarist Rodney Jones was also ‘studious’ in his commitment to authen-ticity) this tour was ‘part of my education. Maceo introduced real old funk stuff on the road. I had to do my homework.’ The tour also landed him a first album release, with more than a little help from producer Stephan Meyner.
The funk element that Larry crammed for rounds out the show. At the start of the evening Maceo announces, ‘Whenever we perform, we have got to get down and have a good time.’ And how they do. Early in the tour, the balance had been significantly tilted towards the jazz end. By the end, Larry Golding reckons, it was pretty much 50/50.
So here it is, as it happened, ‘the director’s cut’ in Stephan Meyner’s phrase. (1992’s Life On Planet Groove picked out the best tracks from three nights’ worth of recordings), re-mastered from the original analogue tapes for maximum sound quality. This is a document of one of the best nights of the 1990 tour, a showcase of the jazz and funk synergy, of Fred, Pee Wee and Maceo’s writing, the highlights of Roots Revisited and a healthy dose of pure unadulterated funk.
Maceo Parker recently heard Larry Goldings working with James Taylor (who had sang background vocals on Maceo’s own ‘My Baby Loves You’). ‘I loved it, and, just like listening back to this show, I got a warm feeling, the glow you have when you appreciate other musicians. Larry, Rodney, Bill, Fred, Pee Wee. Good Lord. It makes me swell with pride.’
London, August 2015