Tower of Power, the legendary horn-driven band, has accomplished a great deal over a career that has spanned a half-century. Eight of the soulful R&B act’s songs have charted on the Billboard Top 100.
And just last June, the album “Soul Side of Town” snagged a No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Jazz Albums and Contemporary Jazz Albums, which Billboard said is a first for the band.
The Tower of Power horn section has recorded or performed with recording artists as varied as the Grateful Dead, Cat Stevens, Poison, Neil Diamond and Public Image Limited.
“People are taken aback when they hear that we worked with Public Image,” vocalist-saxophonist Emilio Castillo says while calling from Los Angeles. “It wasn’t like (PIL vocalist John Lydon) was there when we did our part. We did our thing and left. But we’ve worked with a lot of people and have done some really cool things over all of these years.”
What’s left to accomplish?
“I would love to record with Sting,” Castillo says. “I love him. He once told me that he was in a Tower of Power clone band before he was in the Police. I would love to record ‘Don’t Change Horses (in the Middle of a Stream’) with him. How cool would that sound?”
Tower of Power will perform March 11 at the Carolina Theatre.
The group, which has recorded 19 studio albums, has taken part in a myriad of sessions with other players. “We’ve always been able to work both sides of the fence without a problem,” Castillo says. “We’re good at working in the studio with other artists. That’s a breeze. It’s a feather in our cap. What most people don’t know is that it doesn’t take us long to knock something out. We obviously spend more time on our own music. It’s our passion.”
That passion is evident when Tower of Power performs live. Even though the band has been on the road since the Flower Power era, Castillo and his mates deliver their material with considerable energy and enthusiasm.
“We still got very excited about each show we do,” Castillo says. “We never just go through the motions and present our songs like it’s a nostalgia show. We also never get tired of playing the old favorites. It still feels fresh to us.”
Castillo and saxophonist Stephen “Doc” Kupka are the band’s lone original members. There are more than 65 former members of Tower of Power. “But we keep it going,” Castillo says. “We’ve been fortunate enough to find a way. We have 10 strong and I hope we continue to keep Tower of Power alive for a number of years. We’re still looking forward.”
But Castillo also can’t help but look back. No one can blame him for waltzing down memory lane; his experiences are extraordinary.
“There are so many incredibly cool things that have happened to us,” Castillo says. “I remember when we opened for Aretha Franklin when she recorded her “Live at Fillmore West” album (in 1971). I was standing by the stage door and Aretha had to squeeze by me and she said, ‘Tower of Power, my favorite band.’ It was incredible since I idolized her.
“When we opened for James Brown, we played our song ‘Diggin’ on James Brown’ and he said that he loved that song. It just blew me away. We also played with Carlos Santana, which is one of my most favorite memories. I could go on and on. It’s been that kind of career and the cool thing is that we’re still doing it. Who knows what cool thing will happen next?”
Who: Tower of Power
When: 8 p.m. March 11
Where: Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
Tickets: $46.22 and $102.50
Info: 919-560-3030, carolinatheatre.org