We want the funk
I have been playing electric and acoustic bass for a long time, and I love to hear great rhythm sections at work. Though I was saddened to hear that Tower of Power’s present bass player had been severely injured, I was glad to hear that Rocco Pestia was returning to the band for the time being as a replacement and would be on board at the Jazz Aspen Snowmass concert. Most serious bass players are aware of his lightning-fast, “finger-style funk” approach. He is one of the original members of the band and I have always enjoyed the way his punchy, 16th note bass lines interact with the guitar, drums and Hammond B3. I was looking forward to hearing this funky rhythm section but was disappointed because even though I could see Rocco’s fingers flying over the strings, I couldn’t make out any of the notes he was playing because the volume was so high and the mix was so bottom heavy that his groovy thing was lost in a mind-numbing, booming, thumping roar that devoured the subtleties that make this funk machine work. To reduce the precise instrumental interaction of these groove masters to pounding quarter notes for the sake of creating a party atmosphere is a crime.
As a happy contrast, in one of the adjacent tents, you could clearly hear the beautiful, rhythmic tone of Paa Kow’s bass player driving the band because Eric Schlaudies with Alchemy did the mix with a much more sensitive ear.
I was glad to see that Cubanisimo, a fabulous salsa band, will be playing at the Aspen Art Museum and not in the tent in August. Just like Tower of Power, their sound is a precise, locked-in groove, and I hope the subtly of it will not be buried by the pounding 50Hz sonic boom that I experienced!
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