Before European tour, Tower of Power pays soulful visit to Tahoe |

Before European tour, Tower of Power pays soulful visit to Tahoe

Tim Parsons

When it comes to rare air, few bands have endured like Tower of Power, the soulful R&B 10 piece from Oakland.

Tower of Power has performed at Tahoe since the early 1970s, when its band leader and tenor saxophone player learned about playing at elevation 6,300 feet.

“We were doing (Harrah’s) cabaret and they had oxygen on the sides of the stage,” Emilio Castillo told Lake Tahoe Action in a 2011 interview. “I said, ‘What’s this for?’ And they said ‘This will really help you out,’ and it really does.

The band’s annual performance in the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4. Since its last appearance, it has made a lineup change.

Mic Gillette, a founding member, is out of the band for now to pursue other endeavors. He was temporarily replaced by trumpet player Lee Thornburg, who was in the band from 1986-’95. On Aug. 14 trumpeter Sal Cracchiolo became a full-time band member.

“He has an incredibly high range, plays with power and finesse, his soloing technique is unparalleled, and he’s one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known,” Castillo announced on the Tower of Power website.

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Cracchiolo has an impressive resume. he has played and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Cal Tjader, Chick Corea, Stanley Turentine, Tito Puente, Mongo Santamaria, Clare Fischer, Gary Foster, Arturo Sandoval, Eddie Harris, Joey DeFrancesco, Dianne Reeves, Justo Almario, Andy Martin and Celia Cruz.

Tower of Power last year also released a 40th anniversary CD/DVD box set, which includes “The Great American Soulbook,” with guest singers Joss Stone, Tom Jones, Sam Moore and Huey Lewis.

Keyboardist Roger Smith has been with the band ever since the late 1990s when he was recruited out of South Lake Tahoe’s Christiana Inn. A year ago Smith released an album, “Jazz Rosco II.”

Lead singer Larry Braggs released “Jus Sangin’,” which has 14 soul covers, including a rock song turned jazzy, Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle.”

Tower of Power next month will have an extended European tour.

“In Europe we have this incredible, young fan base – all kids,” Castillo said. “And for a long time, in the ’90s, those young fans, they wanted to hear all the stuff on Epic, the stuff we recorded from 1990 forward. Then we did ‘Soul Vaccination Live,’ and they started going through the catalogue and going through our old material, and to them it was new. Now, we can do no wrong over there, especially northern Europe.”

Tower of Power has several hit singles from 1972-’76: “You’re Still a Young Man,” “Down to the Nightclub,” “So Very Hard to Go,” “This Time It’s Real,” “What Is Hip?” “Time Will Tell,” “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream)” and “You Ought To Be Havin’ Fun.”

Emilio Castillo, bandleader, second tenor sax, vocals

Stephen “Doc” Kupka, baritone sax

Rocco Prestia, bass

David Garibaldi, drums

Larry Braggs, lead vocalist

Roger Smith, keyboards

Tom Politzer, Lead tenor sax

Adolfo Acosta, trumpet

Jerry Cortez, guitar

Sal Cracchiolo, trumpet, trombone