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October 15, 2011

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Tower of Power has got the funk

WHILE all the regular music venues will be rolling along with full, solid schedules this weekend, the super cool JZ Music Festival will be landing its mother-ship of jazz and funk over at Expo Garden Park in Pudong.

The annual festival has a full lineup from noon to night on today and tomorrow that will certainly be snatching much attention as music lovers soak up the last bits of sunshine while the weather creeps cooler daily.

Definitely keeping things warm will be Tower of Power, a funk horn section from the USA that has been blowing away since 1968. They'll be playing tonight at 10pm.

You might know them from their hit songs, including "You Ought to Be Havin' Fun." Or, you might know them from their work popping up in other media, like Japanese cartoon Dragon Ball Z.

Still not sure? That's alright, because they've also guested on other artists' songs, laying down horn parts on tracks throughout the band's more than 40-year span.

Here are a few you might recognize from quite a diverse field of artists.

Artist: Santana

Song: Everybody's Everything

Album: Santana (971)

Year: 1971

This song is a wonderful gumbo of styles from Cuban jazz to gospel to psychedelic rock. Tower of Power provides a soul music influence, with their horns coming in with quick stabs throughout the song. Never in the forefront of the song, they nevertheless make the song tight as a whip by playing focused bursts as the hodgepodge collage of jam band musicians swirl around them.

Artist: Betty Davis

Song: Ooh Yeah

Album: Betty Davis

Year: 1973

In a style that owes a lot to funk band Sly & the Family Stone, the former wife of Miles Davis and a menagerie of fellow freaky vocalists sassily ask the listener "Do you want more?" answering the question concurrently. Like with "Everybody's Everything," Tower of Power are here to add color to the song, though this time in a style more reminiscent of their own than on "Everybody's Everything."

Artist: Huey Lewis & the News

Song: Hip To Be Square

Album: Fore!

Year: 1986

Lewis profusely advocates for the yuppies in this anthem of the 80s. Tower of Power come in two thirds into the song in unison with the melody and then with a saxophone solo, just like rock songs from the 1950s that much of his audience was nostalgic for.

Artist: Public Image Ltd.

Song: Covered

Album: That What Is Not

Year: 1992

Moving from a pop tune to a post-punk rave up, singer John Lydon pleads with his romantic partner, repeating the phrase "I give" over and over to emphasize his point. The song has a kitchen sink feel, with a harmonica, keyboard, guitars and yes, those Tower of Power horns emphasizing the intensity of Lydon's cries.


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