Veteran funk performers finding new audience
Tower of Power brings a bit of history to each of its shows. Since its first record hit in 1970, the group 10-member group has released 29 albums and featured dozens of members, but one constant has remained; the band continues to offer its unique brand of funk with its powerful horns (including three saxophones and two trumpets) and a hint of rock ‘n’ roll.
"We just do Tower of Power music," said Emilio Castillo, the group’s saxophonist, co-founder and part-time vocalist.
"We figured out years ago, when we try to sound like something else, we just sound like Tower of Power in some bastardized version," said Castillo.
So when the group comes to the Eccles Center for a Park City Performing Arts Foundation show this Friday, audience members should know what to expect the same sounds the band has specialized in for decades.
"The live show is the best part of Tower of Power," said Castillo. "It’s very exciting lots of upbeat funk sounds."
The songs, he said, range from funk pieces to "soul-wrenching ballads" and improvisational jam sessions, and include just about everything between those musical points.
There have been some changes over the years, though.
"I wouldn’t say the band has changed much," Castillo said. "The audience has changed a lot We’ve got a lot of kids coming out."
The younger fans, he said, are picking up the group’s songs off the Internet and learning them from their parents, discovering the band anew. Castillo said the trend was obvious on the group’s recent tour.
"For 23 concerts in Europe, they’re all under 20 years old," he said.
Castillo said the new fans have brought some energy back to the group.
"I think we’re on the third generation (of fans) now," he joked. "It’s flattering. It’s an ego boost."
Currently, the group is putting in a few dates on the road after its European tour. While the group hasn’t released a CD since their album "Oakland Zone," which was released in April of 2003, Castillo said the band never strays from the road too long.
"We’re always on tour," he said. "We go in and out all the time."
But Tower of Power does have plans for some new releases. The band has a live DVD coming out in the near future and a few new studio pieces are in the works.
"We’re getting ready to do a new record in the new year," said Castillo.
He said the band planned to release a compilation of old soul tunes first and then later in the year, a new album featuring original material. While the soul songs will depart from the group’s typical fare, Castillo said it really goes back to the group’s roots.
"When we started out," he said, "that’s what we used to do. Before we wrote our own songs, we played other people’s, obviously, and that’s what we played."
At the same time, he said the group would work on writing its new original material.
For the time being, the group is focused on promoting its members’ other projects, like vocalist Larry Braggs’ first solo CD, "Places," putting together good live shows for audiences like the one they’ll likely find in Park City.
"If you haven’t been to a Tower of Power show, you’re missing out," Castillo concluded. "So come out and check it out."
Tower of Power will play the Eccles Center at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 9. Tickets range from $15-$50 with discounts available for students and seniors. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.ecclescenter.org or call 655-3114.
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