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Sample-Minded Horn Riffs by Maceo Parker & Fred Wesley
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Sample-Minded Horn Riffs by Maceo Parker & Fred Wesley

“I am Maceo Parker, and I be blowin’ the soul out of this horn.” That’s how saxophone player Maceo Parker introduced himself on De La Soul’s “I Be Blowin’.” Fittingly, as that’s what his funk, soul & jazz has been all about since the early 60s: as a key member of James Brown’s band, later as part of Parliament-Funkadelic, and working with a wide range of artists—from Ray Charles to Prince.

By DannyVeekens
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Maceo Parker was fresh out of college when his brother Melvin was asked for an audition to join James Brown’s band as a drummer. He landed the gig—but not without smooth-talking his big sax-playing brother Maceo into the band as well. He paid his dues with a tenor sax solo on 1965’s hit “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag,” which helped to become a key member of James Brown’s band. After playing the baritone sax, it was now his tenor with a rich, sharp, staccato sound that fitted in perfectly with James Brown’s tight funk sound.

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In 1970, Parker left James Brown’s constantly changing backing band to start the Maceo & All the King's Men band. He joined Brown’s newly founded The J.B.'s band three years later, before musicians left en masse again a few years later—this time, together with bass player Bootsy Collins and trombonist Fred Wesley, to join the lift-off of George Clinton’s funk-fueled mothership Parliament-Funkadelic.

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From left to right: James Brown band leader Nathaniel Jones, James Brown, and Maceo Parker
From left to right: James Brown band leader Nathaniel Jones, James Brown, and Maceo Parker

1992’s Horn Riffs for DJs together with trombonist Fred Wesley is a collection of sample-minded horn riffs and improvised solos by the two The J.B.’s alumni, released on Tuff City Records. To quote the late great James Brown: “Maceo! Blow your horn!" The quote was later adopted by Prince, who often called Maceo “The Teacher” during his live shows. To then summon the crowd to shout that infamous line by the Godfather of Soul.

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Maceo Parker had always been supportive of the then-rising powerhouse called hip-hop. Even in the early days of the genre, when producers like Marley Marl, Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Flash, and the Bomb Squad started chopping up drum breaks and other elements from music by James Brown & The J.B.’s.

Maceo’s own horn playing was later sampled for music by Notorious B.I.G. (“Machine Gun Funk” - sadly, after publishing issues in 2005, Easy Mo Bee’s horn sample of Maceo & Fred was removed from the song), 2pac, Run-DMC, Madlib, Busta Rhymes, Freestyle Fellowship, and many others, with even an official guest appearance on De La Soul’s Buhloone Mindstate. So there’s no surprise that Maceo was down to record Horn Riffs for DJ’s together with Fred Wesley with the sole use for sampling in mind.

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