Skip to page content

 

For 50 years, Tower of Power has loomed as one of the premier horn sections in music. 

Whether backing up chart-topping artists like Santana, Aaron Neville, David Sanborn, Bonnie Raitt, Little Feat, Aerosmith, and many, many more, or performing their own signature brand of funk, the Tower continues to wow. Featuring founding members  Emilio Castillo, Rocco Prestia, Stephen “Doc” Kupka, and David Garibaldi, along with Roger Smith, Tom E. Politzer, Adolfo Acosta, Jerry Cortez, Sal Cracciolo, and Marcus Scott, Tower of Power has been a consistent presence on stages and in studios for five decades. 

The group first came together in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1968, emerging from the same fertile scene that birthed the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Cold Blood. Claiming Oakland as their home town, Tower of Power spent the late ’60s and early ’70s honing their taut funk sound. After they played a Tuesday night set at the fabled Fillmore in 1970, Bill Graham signed them to his San Francisco Records for their debut LP, East Bay Grease. The record featured original songs written by tenor saxophonist Castillo and baritone sax player Kupka and took its name from the Bay Area funk sound pioneered by the ensemble. 

The band went on to release a string of classic albums on Atlantic, Warner Bros., and Columbia, and collaborated with a wide variety of artists, from the AOR rockers Heart to the jam band Phish to bluesman John Lee Hooker. Tower’s fluency – in both pop and rock idioms – speaks to its members’ individual influence, but soul music remains its foundation. “We have ten people (in the band) and they all have vast interests,” Castillo told AXS.com. “…James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, the Philadelphia sound, the Memphis sound, the Motown sound, and a lot of the soul music that came out of New York. The real raw funk stuff like Dyke and the Blazers and Howard Tate… As teenagers, we found soul music and life changed for us.” 

The music that fueled them all those years ago still endears fans all over the world to Tower of Power. In 2008, the band recorded a 40th anniversary concert, which was released on Blu-Ray. In 2013, they raided the Warner Bros. vault for Hipper Than Hip, a 1974 session recorded at WLIR in Long Island that sat unreleased for 45 years. 

And this year, they’re commemorating their 50th anniversary with Soul Side of Town. Produced by Castillo and Joe Vannelli, the record features contributions from two vocalists – the outgoing Marcus Scott and incoming Ray Greene – along with the legendary rhythm section and blasting horns that have made Tower of Power a landmark institution for decades. “Everybody in the band is saying ‘Wow, what is happening?’” Castillo says about the invigoration provided by the new album. “You get to an age where we’re at and things can start to run down but it seems like for us that things are really kicking into high gear.”