SFJazz Miner Auditorium
December 29, 2016
All photos by Jeff Spirer.
“We love you.” “We love you.” “We love you.” Maceo Parker said it at least 100 times. His band sang it. The audience yelled it out individually and even as a chant back at the stage. Parker brought his funky love-in to SFJazz’s Miner Auditorium just in time for the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love.
In between all the lovin’, Parker and his band took it up with funk, down with ballads, outside with a little jazz, and down the street with a few well-told stories. Playing the roles of bandleader, saxophonist, vocalist, and historian comes naturally to Parker, an entertainer first and foremost. His love was obvious through his delivery of a show that had the dance floor moving and the seated folks giving shout outs to the band. He even returned to the love theme late in the show, saying “It’s all about love” over and over.
At 73, Parker’s energy seems boundless. The energy never seemed to flag while he was on stage, and he only left the stage to allow band members to shine. While his sax and vocals dominated, he gave each member of the band, including his backup singers, an opportunity to stand under the spotlight. Parker played two shows for most of his four night stand at SFJazz, each running two hours plus.
Parker’s extensive resume was on display all night. The music covered and conjured up James Brown, P-Funk, and Prince, who Parker has served as a sideman, as well as Burt Bacharach, Marvin Gaye, the Meters, and Ben E. King. And in an extended monologue, Parker talked about meeting Ray Charles while still in college and telling him he would play on stage with him someday, which happened in 2003. There was even a little rap which Parker explained would never have happened without funk.
And there some funny moments, most of all during the band’s cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Parker’s cousin Darliene sang the song with a variety of vocal styles and goofy faces. And a bit unexpectedly, humor popped up when Parker had a young teen come up on stage and struggle for a minute with getting him to sidestep in time with Parker and trombonist Grey Boyer.
Boyer had his moment to shine on Bacharach’s “Look of Love,” with just his trombone and keys player Will Boulware on stage. Skeet Curtis took several solos on his bass with some funky slapping, Guitarist Bruno Speight stepped out front with his guitar numerous times, including one where he remained alone on stage creating some atmospheric sounds, and drummer Pete MacLean was given a few minutes on his own with a drum solo. Besides Parker’s cousin Darliene, Parker’s son Corey sang backup and took his place up front for one song.
In the end it was the full-on funk numbers that hit the peaks with the audience, whether it was some P-Funk or James Brown styling, or a number from Parker’s first band, All the King’s Men. In the party tradition of all great funk bands, the music was in the service of having a terrific time, on stage and in the audience. And the music brought all that love to the audience, which showered the same love back on the band. The circle was complete.
Opener Judith Hill brought an intimate feel to the venue, performing with just her voice and a grand piano. Hill often plays with a band, a full-on R&B ensemble including horns, but in this appearance, her songs took on an appropriately jazzy feel. It was reminder that the categorization of music into narrow buckets misses the syncretic origins of pop, rock, and jazz. With just her piano and voice, the Prince-produced sounds of her first album, Back In Time, disappeared, allowing her voice to shine.
The highlight of her performance was “Cry, Cry, Cry,” her single from the album, her voice soaring. If the piano suddenly stopped playing, it wouldn’t have been noticed, emotion ripping through the hearts of every audience member. Hill left the audience just as sated as Parker and his band did.
SFJazz must be acknowledged for the Miner auditorium. With both an open floor and stadium seating, and even seating above the stage, the venue accommodates an all-ages assemblage. The sound is exemplary everywhere, loud but not harsh, showing the advantage of a new venue designed for the music SFJazz presents.
Check out Maceo Parker’s website here.
Learn more about Judith Hill on her website.
Find out what’s coming to SFJazz here.