Tiny Universe, featuring Fred Wesley

Wednesday, Sept. 8; Karma

Sep 1, 1999 at 4:00 am

It hardly seems fair that Fred Wesley's name is so prosaic. Everybody can remember the name "Maceo Parker." When James Brown needed to kick up the music's intensity, all he had to do was shout out "Maceo!" and let the magic of those three syllables do their work. It wasn't just Parker's incendiary saxophone solos. It was the sound of his first name. If it was the music, Fred Wesley would be just as famous as Maceo Parker, because Wesley took one of the least sexy instruments in an orchestra, the trombone, and made it generate as much funky heat as James Brown himself. Check out "Papa Don't Take No Mess" and you'll understand that the trombone could drive the Godfather of Soul into ecstasy as well as any other instrument could.

After leaving Brown's employ, Wesley slid right into the sinuous grooves of George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic. Here, Wesley's orchestral training and jazz chops paid off; he arranged many of the horn parts on such classic P-Funk hits as "Flashlight" and "Up for the Down Stroke." With Wesley's background of serious funkateering, you may be surprised to learn that he's spent most of the last two decades playing jazz. A couple of years back, he walked into a Hamiet Bluiett gig at the Side Door and proceeded to demonstrate an absolute mastery of improvisational melodic creation. In short, the man is a monster musician, and you should run, not walk, down to see him perform with Tiny Universe (a group that also features Karl Denson of the Greyboy Allstars.