Tower of Power boasts one of America’s greatest all-time horn sections. From their humble beginnings in the Bay Area of California way, way back in the 1960s, to their new and totally invigorating Step Up (Concord Records), the band put together by Emilio Castillo has weathered the peaks and valleys of extended fame but, through it all, at their highest highs and lowest lows, they’ve also packed a punch.

Fans in America and Canada had witnessed that knock-out kind of show this year (before the pandemic closed venues). Artists as wide-ranging as The Monkees and Grateful Dead have used this horn section. Now a 10-man army with original members Castillo and alto saxophonist-composer Doc Kupka, plus drummer David Garibaldi, keyboardist Roger Smith, tenor saxophonist Tom E. Politzer, trumpeter-flugelhorn man Adolfo Acosta, lead guitarist Jerry Cortez, trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo, lead vocalist Marcus Scott and bassist Marc van Wageningen, they’re a well-oiled machine that consistently cranks total and complete joyousness.

Goldmine spoke with tenor saxophonist, singer-songwriter, bandleader, producer, arranger Emilio Castillo.

GOLDMINE: You guys were THE horn section for everybody! Why was that?

EMILIO CASTILLO: If you think about it, there’s a billion guitar players, a billion drummers, a billion bass players, but you can count the horn sections on your hand. We lucked out in that respect.

GM: It’s more than luck. Look at this list of artists you’ve backed: John Lee Hooker, Aerosmith, Rod Stewart, Lyle Lovett, Aaron Neville…

EC: Aaron, yeah! We did the Grammy Award-winning duet he did with Linda Ronstadt, “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby.”

GM: Even The Monkees!

EC: Later in their career.

GM: Grateful Dead!

EC: Plus drummer Mickey Hart’s solo record. And we played live with the Dead backing Etta James on New Year’s Eve.


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