Last Thursday, March 25, 2010, there were a few great musical options to choose from and I was having an internal struggle. MoonAlice and Some Cat From Japan were playing at The Brooklyn Bowl for $5, while Tower of Power was playing at B.B. Kings for $30.
If I had planned better, I could have attended the 7:30pm show of Tower of Power and ran to The Brooklyn Bowl to catch Some Cat From Japan at 10:30pm. While on the phone with a friend debating on my plan of action, I was feed a little anecdote. He explained how when it comes to these seasoned bands, it’s best to attend the later show so that they can use the earlier show as a warm-up. When it was all put into perspective, I knew what decision I would make! TOWER OF POWER, and for many reasons…
1. I had never seen them before!!
2. I was on the guest list so $30 back in my pocket
3. I wanted to stay closer to home and this was in Manhattan vs. Brooklyn
4. I had never seen them before!!
Being that this was an event scheduled on the NYC Funk Live’s Meetup group site, I knew I would be with some music heads to enjoy the show with. I arrived first and joined the LOOOONG line outside which stretched all the way to the end of the block.
Sometime between February’s Fat Tuesday Show with George Porter Jr. and tonight’s Tower of Power show, a thought-provoking mural had been erected along 92 feet of Times Square Mural by Sofia Maldonado the sidewalk down West 42nd Street commanding the attention of all who walked by with its loud and vibrant portrayal of “Strong Women.”
While studying the mural and getting completely lost in its intricacies and the statement that is was screaming at me, members of NYC Funk Live group started arriving and our section of the line began to bubble out as our group grew while waiting.
After 25 minutes of waiting in 3 stages of the line, we were finally in. There were tables lining every inch of available dance space. By the time were we ushered in, there were only a few available tables left, all with horrible sight lines of the stage. Not that it mattered as none of us wanted to eat, nor did we want to have to pay a minimum of $20 a person for drinks. And , of course, we certainly didn’t want to SIT at a funk concert…PERIOD!!!
Tower of Power took the stage within minutes and we were immediately confronted with more confusion. Obviously we had to stand but where? Where could we put our jackets/scarves/bags since there is no coat check? Where do we dance if there is no dance floor? B.B. Kings strikes again…but let’s get to the good stuff!!!!!
Tower of Power is a horn-heavy jazzy, funky explosion of sound. One of the first funk/pop groups to incorporate multiple ethnicities, Tower of Power blasted out of the 60’s and remains a founder of funk today, empowering and inspiring younger musicians. Below is the only video I took of the night! Too busy dancing…
The wonderful group of musicians that blessed the stage that night as Tower of Power were:
- Larry Braggs – Lead Vocalist
- David Garibaldi – Drums
- Tom E. Politzer – Lead Tenor sax
- Emilio Castillo – Tenor Sax
- Roger Smith – Keyboards
- Adolfo Acosta – Trumpet
- Stephen “Doc” Kupka – Baritone Sax
- Jerry Cortex – Guitar, back up vocals
- Mic Gillette – Trumpet, Trombone, Flugelhorn
- Francis Rocco Prestia – Bass
Special Guests that night included Al Chesnovitz, or Al Chez, former TOP member and Letterman Show band member, and Lenny Pickett, Former TOP Lead Tenor and Musical Director for Saturday Night Live.
Set List: What is Hip?, This Time It’s Real, You Got To Funkifize, You Ought to be Having Fun, So Very Hard to Go, There’s Only So Much Oil in the Ground, Get Yo’ Feet Back on the Ground, Hip Street, and Give Me the Proof, and Walking up Hip Street! ~~~~ (I am sure there are a few I didn’t catch but they only played from 10pm-1130 so there wasn’t room for many songs.)
Lead singer, Larry Braggs, is utterly amazing. AMAZING!!!! I can absolutely see why all the women were swooning while he sang the slower ballads and why they drooled when he blasted out louder, funkier songs like This Time It’s Real. During Startime, the James Brown tribute melody from the “Great American Soulbook,” I literally had tingles down my spine when he sang.
I have only recently been focusing on the singing/vocals when I attend shows. Normally, I take apart the entire song and pick and choose which instruments to focus on at any given time and then phase them all back together in my head to hear the song. The vocals fall by the way side because they are just poetry to me and I can just read them later. But with Larry, I was always drawn away from the instruments and back to the vocals. It wasn’t the lyrics, it was just his voice. This has only really ever happened with a few male singers as I am drawn to female voices. Very strange.
It was during the more well-known songs, What is Hip and This Time It’s Real, that the folks sitting at the tables were able to find their dancing legs and rise. However, it only took a few notes out of the horn section during the first song to get those of us with the NYC Funk Live group dancing. Meredith N., our group’s founder, found us a tiny sliver of dancing space to the left of the stage in front of an abandoned reserved table. It was a horrible space to view the band but we HAD to boogie…so, priorities!! And move we did….it became infectious. Meredith proceeded to dance up and down the aisles of BORING seated patrons which got a few laughs and eventually a large group of people were on their feet or silly business men were trying to dance with us haha.
I LOVE the Baritone Sax, so naturally, Stephen “Doc” Kupka was a favorite. That instrument pinged thorough my head with every note. Apparently, it was Doc’s birthday that night as well. Happy Birthday Doc!
I have to say, though, that the keys player, Roger Smith, killed it during his solos. During Hip Street, the horn section left the stage leaving Roger to solo on the B-3 and David Garibaldi to back him on drums. I knew I wanted a picture of Roger and I was immediately pulled in his direction when the solo began. Unfortunately, I was focusing too much on his solo to take a decent shot. Eventually, the horns joined back in, the song was complete and I could care less about the picture as Tower of Power had just laid one on us with that song and was about to hand us another rager with Give Me the Proof.
Bass player, Jerry Cortez, joined the group last year but only started touring with them in January so this was a treat. His background vocals blended well with Larry’s but I was more interested in hearing him play that bass.
The band went on at 10pm, finished their set at 11:21 and came out for one more song. We were out of there by 11:50pm after we helped Meredith N. hand out her NYC Funk Live notices. Walking to the subway with my funky friends, we all agreed that despite the lack of dance floor, we were all very pleased with the high octane funk that we were just delivered.