It seems like forever since James Brown shouted for alto sax great Maceo Parker to take it to the bridge. In the years since he helped power up the Godfather of Soul's revolutionary grooves, Parker has signed on with George Clinton's funk machines, added some old-school heat to Prince's slim-hipped take on Brown, contributed to other artists' studio sessions, and churned out discs under his own name that served as an instant party in a box. Just add your favorite libation, and Maceo would have you funkified in no time.
That soul-blaster half of his musical personality is given free rein on the Grooves portion of this live double album. It's an energetic but predictable tribute to his days with Brown that finds him percolating through bass-popping originals like "Uptown Up" and the Brown staple "Pass the Peas" (the latter marred by a flurry of unctuous blues-rock guitar and a laughably excessive jazz-fusion synth solo). If you already know Maceo's work, you don't need this.
The Roots half of the set is an entirely different matter. Like any young player, Maceo had his heroes, and it's no surprise that one of them was Ray Charles. He celebrates the R&B and jazz star here, singing and playing his horn over alternately smooth and swaggering show-band arrangements that spring from another time. "Busted," "You Don't Know Me," "Hit the Road Jack," "What'd I Say," "Georgia on My Mind" - they're all here. Parker's impression of Charles' drawled vocal style won't win any awards for originality, but his love for this material shines through on every tune. And when he showcases his alto on material that requires a jazzier disposition, you realize that all those furious funk parties don't begin to define what Maceo is really all about as a player.