Tower of Power at The B.B. King Blues Club

Tower of Power


B.B. King Blues Club, April 14, 2002:


       The Sunday drive into Manhattan is smooth and easy. I find a nice place to park on 47th & 9th Ave. Sunday parking is also much easier here in midtown. I relax for a few minutes and stroll over to the club around 5:30 P.M., expecting to go in without a problem. What a surprise to see a line outside the club, already cordoned off, with maybe 30 people waiting to go inside. Here I thought people would have forgotten about Tower of Power, but the show is SOLD OUT!!!!! I wait with the crowd and go inside when the doors open. I am on the guest list thanks to Ariel Publicity. After telling the waitress I am reviewing tonight’s show she shows me to a table directly in front, at stage right. I join a young couple at the table and try not to interrupt their special night together here at The B.B. King Blues Club.

       It’s 7:15 P.M. and I am having an intriguing conversation with Anna and Matt from Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Anna is a sixth grade music teacher, specializing in guitar, who also instructs the high school choir. Matt is a senior at Penn State University. Matt is a bassist and expects to teach music after his graduation. Anna and Matt are engaged to be married this December. Matt comes from a family of musicians, as his father is a guitarist who is still playing in bands actively. Just my luck, I would sit at a table with musicians. HOORAY !!!!        

       The food is excellent again and the service is exemplary. It is 7:58 P.M. and we are all on the edge of our seats anticipating the beginning of the first show with the legendary band from Oakland, California, Tower of Power.

       Tower of Power comes on stage to a huge standing ovation from the sold out audience. The opening tune is “Soul with a Capital ‘S’.” In an instant, Tower of Power reminds us that they are an incredibly tight band with an amazingly virtuoso horn section featuring an exceedingly charismatic lead singer and a team spirit of togetherness that can be immediately felt, but that’s hard to describe. We are funky all over, immediately moved by the overpowering wall of sound. The horn section is directly in front of me, ain’t I lucky! The first song blows us right out of there and sets the scene for what is to come.


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The second song is “Can’t You See (Your Doin’ Me Wrong).” This arrangement is super funky and tight with ensemble singing from everyone on the chorus refrain. David Garibaldi is smokin’ the trap set and shows his renowned chops and amazing proficiency as a drummer. The keyboard organ solo, by Roger Smith, on the Hammond XK2, sounds as fat as a Hammond B3 and is exceptional in its musical content and emotional feel.

       The third musical entry is called “Credit.” This is a super catchy, staggered soulful funk ensemble number. Jeff Tamelier using a grey vintage stratocaster to scratch a funky rhythm pattern. Tom E. Politzer performs a wailin’ sax solo. Larry Braggs sings an outrageous lead vocal in his shiny blue leather shirt, “Go and get it, with your good credit.” The next number is called “Just Enough and Too Much.” This tune contains a sincerely strong vocal effort by Larry Braggs, complimented by succinctly tight following notes from the dazzling brass section. This tune was originally released on the “In The Slot” LP, circa 1975. Jeff Tamelier takes an exceedingly amazing guitar solo. The audience is thrilled to see Jeff step up to the front of the stage and just wail the guitar.


Photo/Animation: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next tune is the tremendous ballad, “Willing to Learn,” with Larry Braggs’ featured soulful lead vocal complimented by unison ensemble band singing on the refrain. This number features amazing brass section color and chordal strength. Roger Smith plays a strong and fluid organ accompaniment. This tune contains an exceptional trumpet solo by Adolpho Acosta, who plays a soaring crescendo of long high sustain notes. The next song is “Oakland Zone,” which is super funky with tremendous changes complimented by a very tight scratch guitar and an exceptional baritone sax solo by “The Funky Doctor,” Steven Kupka. There is a tremendous keyboard solo with the big B3 sound backed by a strut funk tight chart, with the ‘Bari’ breakin’ the bottom. The next tune, “This Time It’s Real,” features an organ lead. The tune is a big and blary shuffle, a ‘fat’ band chart. Accompanying ensemble chorus refrain singing, “This time it’s real,” sounds so sweet to my ears. Dave Garibaldi shows ferocious chops, rolls and swing technique with snappy accents on the hi-hat. The “Funky Doctor” is blasting away on the baritone sax.


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The band is introduced to raves from the enthusiastic wild-eyed crowd. Every musician gets a loud ovation, especially Emilio Castillo, the spiritual and team leader for 34 years. He leads off the next tune, “Still Diggin’ on James Brown.” The horn section is in full dance routine as we hear the famous refrain, “Take it to the bridge.” Tom Politzer plays a tremendously smokin’ tenor sax solo.


Emilio Castillo


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The next song is, “So I Got To Groove,” with a super funky band chart containing yet another hot tenor sax solo by Tom. There is super scratch rhythm guitar on the sunburst telecaster by Jeff Tamelier, with the two trumpet players doin’ their own dance routine, shakin’ and bakin’. Adolpho Acosta, Mike Bogart and “Doc” Kupka all dancin’ and shakin’ to the groove. “All the things that used to fix me” is the repeating vocal refrain.


Acosta, Bogart, Kupka


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       The band pauses for a special tribute to Ladder Company 4 and the September 11 tragedy. They play “What is Hip,” as a tribute to all the firemen, police and emergency workers who made their incredible sacrifices during the terrorist attack. This song featured two incredible organ solos from Roger Smith.

       Tower of Power exits the stage as the audience is wild, standing, yelling in adulation and appreciation. After quite some time of clapping and standing the band returns for an encore, which is, “Your Still a Young Man.” Larry Braggs on his knees with a colorful contrast chart and a big fat section sound. The second encore song is “Knock Yourself Out.” This tune contains another amazing organ solo, then an incredible drum solo by David Garibaldi and then a long awaited bass solo by Francis Rocco Prestia. This is an amazing bass solo! The audience is completely blown out to the rafters.

       This was one incredible show!!!! My voice is sore from all the singing and yelling. Anna and Matt leave to return to Pennsylvania, about a 3-hour drive. It was so nice to meet you here at B.B. King’s place. I stay around awhile completely gassed. Tom E. Politzer comes out to talk to the audience. We chat briefly and I tell him the show was stupendous! We shake and I get his autograph.


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

       I stay a few more minutes, then I leave the club quite shell shocked at the incredible music.
Tower of Power blows us totally away!        


Larry Braggs


Photo: ©A.J. Alfaro

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