I got to spend a second day at the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival yesterday, and the crowds were even more massive than the night before (I'd never gotten to go on a Saturday before, thanks--or would that be no thanks?--to a weekend job I had for several years).
The headliner last night was Tower of Power, a band I've enjoyed since high school. I knew that they had been around since at least the early '70s, but even I was surprised to hear co-founder Emilio Castillo point out that they actually dated back to 1968! At any rate, the band, with their soul-funk grooves punctuated by the legendary horn section (which has been known to hire itself out as a unit for other people's recordings) never fails to please, and this time was no exception.
There have been lots of personnel changes in the band over the years, but Steve "Doc" Kupka (baritone sax) and the aforementioned Castillo (second tenor) have been there the whole time. Some of the players that have gone through this band are near-legends, including tenor saxist Lenny Pickett (currently of the Saturday Night Live band), organist Chester Thompson, bassist Francis "Rocco" Prestia and drummer David Garibaldi (the latter two having rejoined the band in recent years). New lead vocalist Larry Braggs did a fine job; he might not be up there with my two favorites--Lenny Williams and Hubert Tubbs--but he'd easily be #3 on that list. It was also a homecoming for trumpeter Adolfo Acosta, former lead player for the One O'Clock.
One thing was for sure, this band came to party. (Sure, something could be said about the party starting 45 minutes late, but that's another story.) They constantly engaged the audience in sing-alongs, implored everyone to get up on their feet, and even chided the section that was mostly seated in their lawn chairs for thinking they were at a New Age concert. The horns also had some great choreography (not while playing, of course), with the younger members even jumping in the air a few times. Fun stuff.
Many of their tunes may have a similar formula, but the formula works. In the hour-and-a-half set, they played most of their best-known tunes (either alone or in a medley format): Squib Cakes, Oakland Stroke, Don't Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream), So Very Hard to Go, and so on. When they got to What Is Hip?, we knew it was almost time for the end of the show, and the extended encore included their very first chart hit, You're Still a Young Man.
The concert did run quite late; most of the audience didn't make it through the extended encore (ourselves included), but it was indeed a great time. I definitely hope they come through the area again soon.
(UPDATE: Reader Gary P. had issues with the sound quality, and some other stuff, in the comments; I'll respond to that there.)