Funkifize is one of Tower of Power’s most famous songs, and this is the definitive recording. The tenor solo is short, but iconic. For years I assumed that this was Lenny Pickett, and then I learned that it was actually Skip Mesquite, the original lead tenor player for TOP.
Sadly, Skip passed away a few years back, but his work will live on forever.
The opening is the hardest part – a cold start on altissimo E, held out pure and clean for three bars before devolving into a wash of overtones. With these high solos, I have to hear myself, so I only use one earphone, which makes it harder to match pitch with the soloist.
The fourth bar is one of those effects that I think is impossible (and impractical) to duplicate exactly, but I did my best to approximate what’s going on.
The rest of the solo is straightforward, and super funky!
I don’t know the full back story behind how Skip left Tower and Lenny came on board, but it’s clear from this recording that Lenny Pickett didn’t invent the style from thin air, he was heavily influenced by those who came before him (as is always the case).
If you want to better understand your heroes, listen to who they listened to!Skip Mesquite - You Got to Funkifize
- Artist: Skip Mesquite
- Album: Tower of Power – Bump City (1972)
- Track: You Got to Funkifize
- Instrument: Tenor Sax