Big Fish Audio | Electronic Musician Magazine Marty Cutler | Tower of Funk Product Review
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Tower of Funk | Electronic Musician Magazine

Reviewer: Marty Cutler | Rating: 4 out of 5 Back to Tower of Funk product details

Tower of Power may very well be the textbook purveyor of funk, and David Garibaldi is the heartbeat of the band's energetic and propulsive style. "Tower of Funk by David Garibaldi" ($99.95) from Big Fish Audio offers Garibaldi's unique drumming in a CD-ROM of 16-bit, 44.1 kHz WAV files with an accompanying audio CD.

The files reside in folders sorted by tempos ranging from a languid 66 to a brisk 136 bpm. A subfolder in each folder contains anywhere from 4 to 11 groove variations and a separate subfolder of fills. If your sequencer supports Acid-formatted WAV files, you have a modicum of leeway in adapting the file tempos to taste. You also get an assortment of WAV-format individual instrument hits, should you wish to use a sampler and create your own grooves. I tested the tracks in Mark of the Unicorn's Digital Performer 4.01.

The booklet lists all of Garibaldi's hardware, which includes three Yamaha signature series snares: the David Garibaldi, Peter Erskine, and Manu Katche models. Some files refer to an undocumented fourth snare; a query to Big Fish Audio revealed that the snare in question is a muted version of the Erskine snare.

Although folders are sorted by tempo, some folders contain more than one group of files--sometimes with an unrelated groove, and other times with different hardware. Unfortunately, the file names don't help to distinguish between the grooves unless the hardware is different; that can be confusing when loading files into your digital audio workstation, especially if you are importing them into a portable digital studio with a less informative display and no auditioning capabilities. It would have been more convenient to contain them in separate folders.

Oakland Strokes
I have always been a fan of Garibaldi's style, particularly within the context of Tower of Power. In my experience, the band's forte is an uptempo, busy style that eschews swing in favor of an incredibly driving, almost rushed-sounding 16th-note pulse. However, Garibaldi's playing extends well beyond the busy, propulsive grooves so representative of that band, so don't paint yourself into a stylistic corner. I particularly like the way the grooves in tracks 1 and 2 evolve from simple, down-tempo, timekeeping chores to complex halftime feels. Track 24 dishes up a subtle, loping 88 bpm feel, with patterns moving from sidestick to snare.

The 130 bpm folder containing track 89's grooves offer relatively straight-ahead rock patterns, at least until you add the busy, syncopated performances from track 90. These tracks offer busy accompaniment from the cowbell and ride cymbal while the snare parts almost obstinately avoid beats two and four. You could take almost any pattern and simply loop it; however, doing that would be a shame, because variations dish up syncopated surprises that can impart more of a live feel than typical drummer themes and variations. It feels like you're working with a very clever drummer who encourages you to play more interactively.

I tested the Acid formatting by adjusting the files to different tempos within a range of about 5 to 10 bpm. The grooves displayed no audible artifacts, but some performances sounded a bit too rushed and simply did not fare well at faster tempos. That is not the fault of the formatting or the drummer; the timing variations that constitute a pocket at one tempo may not always work well at another.

What Is Hip
"Tower of Funk" is not without a few additional dings, however. I found a couple of file-naming inconsistencies. For instance, 07-Groove 094 BPM-SN1.wav should have had an R designator appended to it (indicating that the ride cymbal was in use on that track); conversely, 09-Groove 094 BPM-SN1-R.wav has no ride cymbal.

The recordings are rather dry, and because the grooves are stereo files, adding ambience to an individual instrument poses a problem. I would have appreciated a few more snare samples at different dynamic levels; as it is, the individual hits provide only one sample of each snare.

Still, "Tower of Funk" presents a unique, world-class drummer with an incredible pocket. Garibaldi's grooves are also useful for pop, rock, fusion, and other styles. Many of the files made me wish for a companion collection of Rocco Prestia bass lines. For live feel and creative drumming, "Tower of Funk" is hard to beat.

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