Tower of Power: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
The best damn horn section of all time Tower of Power

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Aug. 13, 2018 | Felix Contreras -- When the 10 members of Tower of Power were in place behind Bob Boilen's desk, strategically positioned around the band's famous five-piece horn section, their first collective blast three beats into the sound check literally made the video crew jump. It was more a force of nature than a sound, and an impressive display of the "five fingers operating as one hand" concept of band cohesiveness. From the group's beginning in Oakland in 1968, its soul disciples stood out from the peace-and-love scene in the San Francisco Bay. Their dedication to the horn-driven soul heard on recordings from the Stax and Atlantic record labels evolved to such a sophisticated level as to make the Tower of Power Horns an entity unto themselves. Eventually artists as diverse as Santana, the Grateful Dead and even Elton John enlisted them to give their music an authentic connection to the scene. I have to confess that this show was mostly a labor of self-indulgent love, since I've been a fan since about 1972. So it was a joy to listen to the unmistakable sounds of my youth as the band delivered both "What Is Hip" and "So Very Hard to Go" with so much vitality, it sounded as if they were just written last week. During the performance of the title track from their new album, "The Soul Side of Town," the playing, the passion and the precision remains unchanged after all the years. 1968 was one hell of a year musically, as we've seen from this year's many anniversary celebrations of albums, events and bands. Add Tower of Power to that shortlist of artists for whom that moment was an early rehearsal for what would become a five decade career. A band this big will inevitably have some members come and go, but it's important to note that the original songwriting nucleus of bari saxophonist Stephen "Funky Doctor" Kupa and bandleader/tenor saxophonist Emilio Castillo continue to write and perform, as does original drummer David Garibaldi. I want to write that the band has become an institution. But that conjures images of stuffy old men looking down professorially on youthful funksters, occasionally showing them how it was done in a long-lost golden era. Instead, Tower of Power remains as vital and full of life-affirming funk and soul, if not more, as they were in 1968. The band's dedication, hard work and connection to us long-time fans prove that a good idea is timeless. If you need proof, just watch this video. Congrats, fellas. It's been a very soulful 50 years. Set List "On the Soul Side of Town" "So Very Hard to Go" "What Is Hip?" Credits Producers: Felix Contreras, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Becky Harlan, CJ Riculan; Production Assistant: Catherine Zhang; Photo: Samantha Clark/NPR.

Comments

Ajala Omodele : Tower of Power? On Tiny Desk? Doing "So Very Hard to Go"? *sheeeeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt*

Caramel Drop : Tiny Desk Concerts are an excellent medium for exploring new genres. I’ve been stuck exclusively in hip hop/rap for far too long, and this helps me expand my curiosity. Keep it going, NPR!

wakajumba : and THAT, Ladies & Gentlemen, is how IT is done!

Jonathan Smith : Kudos to the crew who engineered and wired up the sound. Wish more studio albums were recorded live with musicians playing off each other's energy in close quarters. So good!

Wes Sparkmon : Thank you audio engineer for turning Doc up even louder so us Bari Sax players can appreciate the brilliance of the GOAT

drumtwo4seven : Ya man that singer is INSANE for sure but you know what? So is the whole fkn band! I seriously can not believe how awesome that was. THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS!!!! THANK YOU!

marchingforever : The tightness of this band, especially the horn line is giving me an eargasm! 😍

Mount Swervemore : My mans in the back is taking that bass for a walk deep into the pocket. Rhythm section is on!

Jose Almodovar : Okay but can we appreciate the Bari Sax player? Cause good God, the sound coming out of it is breath taking.

Christiaan Trichardt : Didn't know Kevin hart could sing so well

Strictly Rahmen : my parents went to high school with thees guys, they played at parties.

timothyrixner : David Garibaldi still sounds amazingly crisp and funky even with quiet rods. This is amazing. Thank you!

Amanda Feliciano : All i can think is u would never know these old guys are such a bunch of badasses if u saw them around a table at a Denny's lmfaooo

Twinkie Boy : co-worker asked me why i'm crying? i told them, because i'm happy that i can hear music, i can hear life! People be happy for the all of it, good, bad, small, or big, ALL of it means we made it here, and some day we'll make it out. So my fellow human, just enjoy the ride when possible, and accept the bumps along the way. Thanks NPR you hit my heart yet again.

H Mohr : Damn. Next level feeling. This video should warn about the dangerous side effects of that level of funkyness.

Arthur Azoubel : I can't help thinking that putting Marcus on a higher level was not only due to lack of space, but actually for recording purposes, and that was f* brilliant and well thought. All these loud metal instruments closer to the singer's mic would definitely take over and muddy the vocal track for sure

Matthew Donnelly : NPR should list the musicians! Roger and Tommy killed it on What Is Hip. Marcus has such a presence too, what a talent. Sad Rocco wasn't in here but the bassist was killing too.

Alexander K : Righteous! I dig the variety NPR offers... NPR should put together a music festival with a crazy diverse line up.

Pow Wah : Much LOVE to The lead vocalist Markus Scott he is an AWESOME Talent !!!World get ready 4 greatness.

tyler hagen : Bass players a baaaaad man

Shaun Kelly : It's so great to see a young singer with SOUL. That guy is great, he's also the luckiest man in the world to sing with this band.

Nick Latham : Awesome band but the singer is so good that I actually laughed at some of the crazy runs! Not in a bad way at all, it’s just like my brain didn’t know what to do with the information it was being given hahahaha!!

chronosynclastic8 : Let's just pause for a moment and realize that that badass at the keyboard is probably someone's grandpa.......

Molly Rae Pearl : just gave a standing ovation to my computer lol

Tom Jares : Smokin! Surprised the joint didn’t burn down. Wow!

Ning-Ning Shalom : The Background I have goosebumps.... the Horns.... the Keys.... the Lead ...the Guitar... the Drums... Ya'll Jamming... tears of Joy

Antonio Meres : All I can think is: You have to... I mean, YOU HAVE TO be a BADASS singer to play with this badass band. Kudos to the masters of funk.

Charles Rutt : What is Hip? That thing I just broke doing these funky azz steps at my age....

adventuresinbelieving : Damn fine, as always. Honor to all ToP players and singers over the years, especially Lenny. Marcus - you got the right pipes for this gig bro!

legshakermaker1968 : Awesome! Who are NPR's sound engineers? They do amazing things with every artist that appears on here. Also there's a drummer and bassist hiding in the back of this group that are absolutely killing it. I feel bad for the 173 viewers who have disliked this so far; what is wrong with you people?

TheNamesDitto : So this is aging gracefully....

jrudovsky : Yeah...that's right! And to the thumbs down crowd I feel bad you have no soul better you than me. Some of the best musicians on Earth here let there be no mistake.

Adale Mills : Too bad you can't see the bass player.....he's working hard!

JP Farrell : Where is Rocco? After seeing the band over 14 times over the course of 40 plus years the singers that blew us away was Lenny W and Larry B. We saw this singer with this band not to long ago and disagree with Emilio that this was the best singer they ever had.

Ruffpuppys : ole Jim and that sax player are choppin it up! A+!

Raye Journigan : "There is no sound like the Tower of Power sound". That's tight!!!

Justin Figueroa : 35 haters out there clearly must have had their sound on mute when listening to this...

musicismyonlydrug : OMG what a brilliant singer!

Jasper Neil : This is breathtakingly good. Haven't smiled so much since Anderson Paak's set.

CJ P : TOWER OF POWER ARE LEGENDARY in OAKLAND CALIFORNIA !!! REPRESENT !!!! YEE

William Rivers : Marcus Scott is an amazing singer. Marcus more than fill Lenny Williams shoes as a singer for TOP.

Marlon Valladares : Listen to this with a good set of headphones and you hear such awesome playing and engineering

Make Weird Music : Fantastic. Can't even imagine how loud this was in person.

Parzival : This is awesome but I should be working. EDIT: Woah Thanks so much for the likes guys, it made me come back and listen again.

Anthony White : These brothers STILL GOT THAT FUNK! Listen to that BASS!!!

Jody wms : This performance gave me goose bumps damn it

Rome 1 : T.O.P is Always on point!! This singer is Mind Blowing !! He is from the Soul Capital of the World MEMPHIS, TN !!!!

Zo Valentine : It's so very hard to go because I'm on the soul side of town where it is what it is ✌💖❤⚘⚘

Steven Anderson : And this is why Oreo’s are so frigen delicious!! 🎷🎺🎸🥁🎹🎤