If you’re still trying to figure out what is hip, rhythm and blues icons Tower of Power with the Tower of Power Horns will clue you in fast when they play the Canyon Santa Clarita on Saturday night.
The 10-piece multi-ethnic band’s horn-driven rock ’n’ soul and funky stop-on-a-dime syncopated snap put Oakland, Calif., on the musical map 50 years ago.
TOP took their sound across San Francisco Bay to Bill Graham’s Fillmore West, then into the studio and onto stages worldwide with workouts like “What is Hip?” and “Down to the Nightclub” and immortal soul ballads like “You’re Still a Young Man” and “So Very Hard to Go.”
Over the decades the five-member Tower of Power Horns have also been first-call for sessions, recording hundreds of albums and tracks with artists from John Lee Hooker and Otis Redding to Carlos Santana and The Grateful Dead, from Heart and Toto to Aerosmith and Poison.
Today, fronted by co-founders and chief writers Emilio Castillo and Stephen “Doc” Krupka, also horn section leaders on second tenor sax and baritone sax, respectively, and powered by fellow co-founder and funk pioneer David Garibaldi on drums, Tower of Power is celebrating their half-century on record and onstage.
TOP’s also backing an all-new album, “On the Soul Side of Town,” co-produced by Castillo with Joe Vannelli (Gino’s brother and producer) that stands with their best-known hits.
Now, that is hipper than hip.
Joining Castillo, Krupka and Garibaldi at the Canyon Santa Clarita Saturday night will be bandmates Jerry Cortez (guitar), Marc van Wageningen (bass), Roger Smith (organ) and Marcus Scott (lead vocals), with Adolpho Acosta and Sal Cracchiolo (trumpet) and Tom Politzer (lead tenor sax, flute) rounding out the TOP Horns.
“Tower of Power’s known for its large, high-energy show,” Castillo said, calling between gigs. “Marcus is a great singer. When he performs, the audience is totally into it. He wears them out. There’s a lot of audience participation, a lot of dancing. You should leave out of breath and sweating.”
In the new year, TOP will take their East Bay grease to Australia and Europe, and play London’s Royal Albert Hall for the first time. A 50th anniversary DVD is also in production for release in 2019.
Even in his wildest dreams as a young man back on the streets of Oakland, Castillo didn’t see a 50-year career traveling the world ahead of him.
He recalls an interviewer asking about his musical dreams back then.
“I told him, ‘My favorite (Oakland) band was The Spiders, and they got a gig in Sacramento,” Castillo said. “I thought, ‘Man, if I could just get to Sacramento!'”
Find the Canyon Santa Clarita on the ground floor of the Westfield Valencia Town Center. Get tickets at the box office 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, by phone at 888-645-5006, or via TicketMaster.com. For more info, visit WheremusicmeetstheSoul.com. Santa Clarita journalist and Grammy nominee Stephen K. Peeples has covered the SCV music scene since 2004. Contact him via stephenkpeeples.com.