You can't knock Maceo Parker's work ethic.

The funk-soul-R&B saxophonist is one of the most in-demand sideman in the business, with such all-stars as Dave Matthews, Bryan Ferry, Prince and Red Hot Chili Peppers calling upon his talents. He balances that with his own stellar recording career, which has produced such fine albums as 1992's "Life on Planet Groove" and this year's "Soul Classics."

He also maintains a healthy touring schedule -- which will include Maceo Parker's Funky New Year's Party, which runs Friday through Dec. 31, at Yoshi's San Francisco, 1330 Fillmore St. Tickets are $25-$100 (415-655-5600; www.yoshis.com).

Maceo Parker plays the sax on the main stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, August 14, 2010. (Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News)
Maceo Parker plays the sax on the main stage at the San Jose Jazz Festival in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday, August 14, 2010. (Jim Gensheimer/Mercury News) ( Jim Gensheimer )

It makes sense that Parker would be such a hard worker -- he was, after all, schooled by none other than the "Hardest Working Man in Show Business." James Brown took the saxophonist under his wing in the mid-'60s, and Parker remains best known for his work with "The Godfather of Soul."

Recently, I spoke with the 69-year-old saxophonist on the phone from his home in North Carolina.

Q Welcome back to Yoshi's! You did your New Year's Eve run at the club last year, and now you're back for another. What brings you back?

A The Yoshi's owners came by one of the nights (last year) and said, "I've got a feeling about this. Maybe we should hire these guys back next year." So that's why we're back. We're excited about it.

Q People must have loved the shows last year.

A I try to use the time I spend with people, entertaining, to make it really worthwhile for them. I know that we, as people, need to be entertained -- just to make life better or to get through the tough times. A good concert kind of takes your mind off the everyday (problems). I know that. So, I really try to give the people something they can enjoy -- and not only enjoy, but be part of.

Q What will the set lists look like for this New Year's Eve run?

A I get impulses. I am moved by what's happening. The formula is kind of a carbon copy of last year. It's the way I do my thing. It's just me and whatever I feel like doing. I get my impulses by what I feel the audience is feeling at the time -- and I go from there.

Q Your latest release is "Soul Classics," which features you on 10 tunes that certainly live up to the album's title. How did you choose which tracks to record for this project?

A A lot of time when I play at home, I turn on satellite music, and I will just play along to whatever they are playing. When they play something, and I'm playing along with it and it feels comfortable, I will say, "Oh, I like this." And I will jot down the name of the song. That's how I came up with (the song list).

Q One of the selections on "Soul Classics" is "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." You still enjoy playing those old James Brown tunes?

A It depends on which tune it is. I enjoy being who I am and what I've done -- coming up with James Brown. People like that (Brown) material. The signature (James Brown Band) tune is "Pass the Peas." I can't get out of doing that one in concert.

Q Have you ever tried?

A No, because they won't let me.

Q Since being a part of Brown's band, you've gone on to work as a sideman with so many artists. Who are some of your favorites?

A Prince. As far as something to pat yourself on the back about, my relationship with Prince stands as No. 1.

Q Working with Prince, no doubt, has to be a highlight. But you've had so many others, both as a sideman and a bandleader, during your wholly impressive career.

A When I reflect back on Day One and zoom forward through my career, it's not bad. I chose to do what I do. And that's what makes it easy for me. I really do love people. And I really do love performing. And I really do love playing saxophone.

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic, Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews and http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/category/concerts.

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