By Andy J. Gordon
Tower of Power (www.tofp.com) is a soul band from San Francisco that has been performing for 41 years. Their concert on December 11, 2009 at Club Nokia left no doubt that they still deliver a dynamic brand of soul, funk, and incredibly tight horn arrangements. Prior to the Tower of Power show, Average White Band opened with some fine soul and funk of their own. Tom Politzer, Tower of Power’s lead tenor sax player, sat in for the encore, “Pick Up The Pieces”. While both bands fall into the same genre, AWB’s sound is more subtle. The crowd enjoyed the set, but clearly the highlight of the evening was yet to come.
Many bands incorporate horns into their mix, but few do it with the greatness of Tower of Power. Their five horns blend together to make a wall of sound that is unmatched. Emilio Castillo, on tenor sax, and Stephen “Doc” Kupka, on baritone sax are the founding members of the band. They have written most of the songs as well. In addition to Tom Politzer on tenor sax, Adolfo Acosta and Mic Gillette play trumpet. David Garibaldi on drums and Francis “Rocco” Prestia on bass provide the solid rhythm foundation. Roger Smith on keys and Mark Harper on guitar round out the musicians for the band. The dynamic lead vocals of Larry Braggs complete the soulful sound.
Their show included a mix of classic songs like “Soul With a Capital S”, and “You Got to Funkifize”. They also did some songs off their recently released album Great American Soulbook, including “Loveland”, “You Met Your Match “, and “Me And Mrs. Jones”. Things really got rolling when Emilio took over lead vocals and ran through a James Brown tribute medley. They closed things with “So Very Hard to Go” and “What Is Hip?” The encore, “You’re Still a Young Man”, featured beautiful harmonies and virtuoso horn playing. This was just what I would expect from a TofP show. Still, it is breathtaking to experience it, even when one knows it is coming. After four decades, they keep delivering soul, funk, and cohesive instrumentals that are unsurpassed, and deeply moving.
Photography by Angela Dawn.