By Sarah Moore

Of the many lessons taught in Maceo Parker’s latest disc, School’s In, none is more emphasized than the lesson of funk. From the basics of funk with “Basic Funk: 101” to the far more advanced funkateer, “Advanced Funk,” this disc has covered all of the bases. Blending originals with fun, widely-known standards, Parker has put together a cross-catalogue of some of the finest funk specimens today. Throughout, Parker has assembled a veritable who’s who in jazz and funk with guest musicians such as Greg Boyer (trombone), Rodney “Skeet” Curtis (bass), and Peter Weniger (sax).

The disc begins with a little Shakespeare shout-out in "To Be Or Not To Be." With unmistakably funky rhythms and vocals, this track starts things off on the right note. Next, we move into "Basic Funk: 101" where Parker covers the basics and then some. In "What You Know About Funk?," Parker's son Corey has written and recorded vocals while hip-hop beats mix with old-time funk.

"ABC," popularized by the Jackson 5, is the next track. Extra lengthy and funky, this track is a thrillingly fresh take on a classic song. In “Song For My Teacher,” Parker slows things down a tad as he presents this homage to an influential teacher. Then, Parker picks things back up in “Speed Reading [It-si-bi-ya]” as your ears desperately try to keep pace with the music. Not long do you have to recover as Parker shows you “What a Wonderful World.” I was expecting the lovely song as done by Louie Armstrong, but I was pleased to hear that this is Sam Cooke’s version. Parker notes that this song was quite the incentive to stay in school.

Next up is class with “Arts and Crafts,” a little break before the big dogs come out in “Advanced Funk.” Clearly not for novices, this song inspires even the funk beginner to get up and get down. As Parker wraps things up in the last track, “I’m Gonna Teach You,” the listener reflects on the wide span of learning having taken place over the past 60 minutes. Only one question remains: To Funk or Not to Funk?

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[Published on: 8/24/05]

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