Five ... Maceo Parker at the Zephyr Club, Salt Lake City, Utah
Maceo Parker's first performance in Salt Lake started a whole chain
of appearences by him and his powerful
Funk ensemble along Utah's so-called Wasatch Front -- home to over
a million people ...
"Skeet" Curtis as he appeared in Missoula during
spring of 1998. He was dressed UP with Maceo's band in 1999!
'99 had just become February '99 as Maceo Parker's band was
setting up in the Zephyr.
I had previously contacted Rodney Curtis via Melissa Weber's
One Nation P-Funk fan site on the Internet, and Skeet
promised to help get me "on the list" for their
sold-out show. In return, I wrote an online review (long-gone
from the Web by now) and made some computer graphics of Curtis,
Parker, and ex-P-Funk trombonist Greg Boyer.
Maceo Parker was frankly a hero of mine since he'd played
all those fabulous solos for James Brown.
He was one of the few musicians in that top-flight band who
Brown called out for by name. Maceo's brother Melvin played
drums, with legendary bassist Bernard Odom, on Papa's Got
A Brand New Bag while Parker dominated side B with his
I was equally impressed when I learned how much he'd worked
with the various P-Funk bands over the years -- especialy
in Bootsy's Rubber Band with several other ex-JB's.
Fred Wesley told me later how Parker had toured with BOTH
P-Funk and James Brown for in the late 70's and early 80's.
Wesley didn't mention that Maceo was also there whenever the
JB horns recorded on their own. My own research also told
me about Parker recording live with the P-Funk All-Stars in
the late 80's too.
Maceo's solo career seemed to have been hastened by James
Brown's all-too-famous car chase and subsequent incarceration
-- I started to hear records on the radio with Parker's name
on them from about 1990 forward -- usually on Jazz stations.
I was thrilled when I saw Bootsy Collins and he in Dee-Lite's
memorable Groove Is In The Heart video.
first got to the Zephyr, I asked for Skeet Curtis, and he
came to the front to meet me -- he is a sober, but fun-loving
man who was completely devoted to making music.
When I asked about scoring his new job, he reminded me that
he had known Maceo Parker for over twenty years.
Since he'd done a long, eloquent Bass solo the last time I
saw him, I asked about the possibility of hearing another,
and he said he'd see what he could do. I
then sought out trombonist Greg Boyer -- I didn't know him
at the time, but he was of the most-mentioned musicians on
Melissa Weber's One Nation site and, like Skeet,
an ex-member of George Clinton's band.
Greg enjoyed hearing about Bernie Worrell's show and made
an observation about P-Funk having a great many hours of good
material. I steered him to the nearby Oyster Bar, one of Salt
Lake's best restaurants, and went home to get ready for their
show. (I wore the P-FUNK 1 jersey, of course.)
The Zephyr Club was packed, and I was grateful to Skeet for
getting me in. I brought my neighbor Sherri along, and she
joined her posse of dancin' fools right up front, while I
mixed and mingled around the place.
looks great in fancy clothes. He literally stands at Maceo
Parker's right hand, playing trombone, and singing very well
I made a digital graphic for Maceo, and he signed the back of
my copy. I printed one more and gave it to the Zephyr.
Parker's performance was, simply said, wall-to-wall funky
jamming for hours on end. He sang and played his Alto Sax
with never-ending passion and inventiveness. Greg stood right
next to him and supported everything he played or sang with
a strong singing voice and powerful trombone -- playing high
or low, whatever the jam demanded.
Jamal the drummer and Skeet had perhaps the toughest roles
of all -- underpining that fine, spontanious music, but they
seemed happy generating snappy, shifting rhythms in the back
as Maceo punctuated the show with his refrain of Ooh
Maceo's son Cory stood up front as a rapper now and then,
or sung in the back with William -- designated hitter -- uh,
singer on Mustang Sally. Bruno played an easy, stylish
guitar, and John leaned on the keys of his classy antique
Hammond organ. Skeet threw in a short solo or two, but the
gig was was a GROUP affair -- which shook that two-story club
from top to bottom.
crowd was hypnotised by the masterful union of sound and rhythm
known as FUNK, played by men who had perfected the art over
decades. Maceo reached out, took a lady's hand, and allowed
her onstage. It may have been an old trick, or maybe not --
but she was a TERRIFIC dancer -- graceful, beautiful, well-trained,
and riveting to watch. (I later saw her perform in Steven
Brown's Scampdance -- her name is Megan Brunsvold.)
The horns paraded upstairs into the dressing room when the
show ended, but there was one HELL of an encore too!
Maceo signed autographs afterwards, and we talked with Greg
and Skeet a little -- the band was on its way to play at the
Mangy Moose in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I would see
them later that year on tour with Ani DiFranco, but this is
THE END of this story!
(Above) Legendary trombone soloist Fred Wesley. (Right) Virtuoso
Dennis Chambers as a multi-armed Hindu demigod.
of the P-Funk are friendly to their fans -- at least that's
been my experience. Other meetings at the Zephyr included:
The great Fred Wesley, who laughed about how little he had
actually done in Parliament/Funkadelic, but accepted how important
his contributions had been.
Dennis Chambers liked hearing about Skeet, Greg, and other
Baltimore musicians like Greg Thomas, Bennie Cowan, and ex-Zappa
drummer Chester Thompson.
images by Michael Evans
P-Funk alumni primarily montaged from photographs by David Brooks. Others
are adapted from images found on websites for D'Addario Strings, Fred
Wesley, and Dennis Chambers