The Tower of Power funk machine cannot be stopped.
The longtime lead singer left 13 months ago, the veteran drummer is recuperating from a hip replacement and the original bassist is recovering from a kidney transplant. But T of P sounded as funky as ever on Wednesday in the first of eight performances this week at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis.
Props to founder/saxophonist Emilio Castillo for keeping this funk machine running smoothly. Drummer Herman Matthews was playing his first gig with this lineup, though he was in the group for four years in the 1990s. Bassist Raymond McKinley used to be the band’s tour manager. He and Matthews knew how to bring the fat bottom that drives the funk for Tower of Power.
In his first Twin Cities appearance, new singer Ray Greene proved to be a soulful showman, who brings his own style and a little bit of church to the proceedings. His high voice sometimes felt like a mismatch with T of P’s thick bottom but he couldn’t be denied on ballads, especially “So Very Hard To Go” and “You’re Still a Young Man.”
He’s stepped into big shoes occupied by Lenny Williams, who recorded those 1970s soul classics, and most recently the exciting Larry Braggs, who left for a solo career. Greene, who also played a little trombone, is clearly his own man, an emotional and physical singer. He knows how to work it.
The 80-minute set was typical of most Tower of Power performances here in recent years: terrific horn work, great guitar, a funky rhythm section and three hits, a couple of FM radio soul jams plus a taste of James Brown. It’s a formula that Castillo has been using for 47 years. He promised to carry on for another 20 years.
Indeed, Tower of Power is the unstoppable funk machine.
The 10-man group performs at 7 and 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Dakota.