Francis ‘Rocco’ Prestia’s unshakeable semiquavers have been the foundation of Tower Of Power for almost 50 years (that’s an awful lot of notes…). Along with drummer David Garibaldi, Rocco has been a mainstay of funk’s most celebrated rhythm sections, providing the backbone to ToP’s signature grooves including ‘Soul Vaccination’, ‘What Is Hip?’, ‘Soul With A Capital ‘S” and ‘There’s Only So Much Oil In The Ground’.
I felt like it would be criminal to run a series of posts about groove without including at least one of Rocco’s lines, but I was determined not to go for the obvious choices. ‘Maybe It’ll Rub Off’ (from 1975’s Urban Renewal) revolves around an ear-catching unison riff which features plenty of Rocco’s famously tight 16th-note playing:
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Sorry about the shorts, but it's been hot in London for once… Groove of The Week #40: Tower of Power – 'Maybe It'll Rub Off'. Transcription up on the website soon(ish). #hotdogsorlegs #bass #bassguitar #bassgroove #bassist #bassporn #bassgram #instabass #bassforward #bassdaily #bajo #basse #baixo #bassgrooveoftheweek #fender #nobleamps #apogee #towerofpower #groove
The bass line on ‘Maybe It’ll Rub Off’ requires a fair amount of technical control to execute with authority; semiquavers at 111bpm isn’t too horrific given that the ‘question and answer’ nature of the riff provides plenty of opportunities for your fingers to recover. On a nuts and bolts level, the notes fall into the classic minor pentatonic box pattern (albeit with a small position shift and some chromatic passing tones thrown in to add some colour). Getting from the extremely high register fill back to a low F in time requires some acrobatics unless your bass is blessed with a multitude of extra strings; if you’re the owner of a 4-string bass with 20 or 21 frets then you’ll have to skip this (or play the high notes using artificial harmonics, a la Gary Willis…).
For those of you who are interested in finding out more about Rocco’s signature semiquaver style there’s a very informative (and relatively comical) instructional video by the man himself:
I seem to remember that the original VHS had a blooper reel included. Unfortunately, this seems to have been clipped from the YouTube upload. For shame.