Tower of Powers Bassist, Marc van Wageningen

By Dr. Alan Carlos Hernandez on January 15, 2019

HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) —  Tower of Power is a soul band playing soul music for 50 years. They travel the world doing usually 200 dates a year, their latest CD topped the jazz charts they are more in demand than ever.

The newest member to the TOP lineup is Marc van Wageningen, he has taken over the bass chair from finger funk legend Francis Rocco Prestia, who has retired.

Born and raised in Amsterdam, Holland, Marc started playing bass guitar at the age of 16.  He moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1980 and started playing with jazz greats Eddie Marshall, George Marshall, Larry Schneider and Mel Martin.  Over the years, Marc has had the opportunity to play with numerous musicians and is a sought-after session player.

In January 12th, 2017 Marc was struck by an Amtrak train on his way to a Tower of Power performance at Yoshi’s in Oakland’s Jack London Square. The accident was widely reported at the time by CNN and other media outlets. Thankfully, Marc continues to recuperate from critical injuries and is back playing the bass bigger and badder than ever.

Multi-instrumentalist and music producer Peter Michael Escovedo organized a benefit concert which took place 10 days after the accident and set up sessions at Oakland’s 25th Street Recording for a studio album called Raise the Marc. The CD Featured a long list of top-tier musicians including Dave Koz, Sheila E., Ray Obiedo, Tony Lindsay, Peter Horvath, John Santos, and Pete Escovedo, among many others.

The CD was released on producer’s Peter Michael imprint and is still available. All proceeds continue to benefit Marc and his family, who have been facing substantial medical expenses.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than three decades, Van Wageningen (VW) is one of the most sought-after bassists on the West Coast. In addition to his work with Tower of Power, he’s toured and recorded with Steve Winwood, Pete Escovedo, Sheila E., Pee Wee Ellis, Maceo Parker, and many other artists.

He is considered an ace studio musician called for a vast array of situations, he’s played on network and cable television house bands (ABC’s The One, The Wayne Brady Show, and VH1’s But Can They Sing?).

Marc VW is probably best known for his ferocious grooves playing funk and Latin music, styles he honed with his late brother, drummer Paul van Wageningen, his rhythm section partner and co-leader in the VW Brothers (Muziek, Patois Records, 2010).

Herald de Paris Editor, Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez thanks to music industry Executive Al Evers, had an opportunity have an intimate conversation with Mark VW…

AC: Tell us about growing up in Amsterdam, who were some of the musical influences that helped you decide on a career in music?

VW: In Amsterdam I grew up in a neighborhood with lots of kids my age and we would be outside every day playing soccer and games and hanging out. Amsterdam is a beautiful city that I always appreciated. A city with so much history, art and diversity.

I started very late with music because I was interested in historic sailing ships and worked with a friend of mine on a shipyard restoring them.

I never consciously decided on a career in music it just naturally happened. I had taken classical guitar as a kid but at age 16 when my dad switched to upright bass, I took his bass guitar and within a year I was playing gigs.

My influences came from my dad and my brother who had started playing drums at about the age of 8.

My dad was really into music and had played piano since he was a teenager and then decided to play bass and would jam with friends.

He was heavily involved with Jazz musicians coming to Holland to play and some of them at our house such as Ben Webster etc. I was exposed to lots of Jazz and blues and R&B and thru my brother Latin Jazz, salsa and Funk and more.

As I started listening more to music, I would spend hours listening to bands such as Earth Wind and Fire Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Average White Band Donny Hathaway, Weather report, Herbie Hancock and on and on.

AC: What instruments do you play why did you play; do you compose as well?

VW: Besides bass I play a little piano. I don’t compose a lot but when my brother and I did our first CD I composed all but one of the songs.

AC: Who are some of your Bass influences?

VW: The first Bass player I really noticed as a kid was Charles Mingus a record my dad had called Mingus Mingus Mingus. I loved the energy and power! I was a huge fan of Herbie Hancock and later his band called Headhunters, I loved Paul Jackson, so many cool bass lines.

Of course, Rocco was special, and I really liked Anthony Jackson. I never forget hearing ‘’ for the love of money’’ wow what a bass line! then Jaco came out and blew all of us away, like James Jamerson he changed the course of the electric bass.

AC: How did you decide to move the US, settle in the Bay are in Specific and pursue a career in music? What would you be doing of you didn’t make a career out of music?

VW: In 1976 my brother and I went to New York and visited with NY musicians he had played with in Holland. We saw tons of music and as it happened my brother ended up staying in the US. I went back to Holland.

About two years later he ended up in the Bay area and stayed there. I then was ready to move as well because we had grown up with American music and I wanted to be there to experience it in person.

If I hadn’t gone into music, I would have partnered with my friend who then went on to have his own shipyard

AC: Who are some of the people who gave you your first breaks in the Bay Area, what are some of the old school memories of coming up in the Bay Area music scene?

VW: I had met some people in Amsterdam such as Andy Narell, Ron Stallings and Larry Dunlap, They helped me a lot. Ron hooked me up with the Rathskeller band, which was a great period for me.

There was a blues funk band in Berkeley at a club called Larry Blake’s. I learned so much from those guys and met tons of musicians there. Larry helped me meet some of the Jazz players in the Bay Area.

I had met Ray Obiedo a phenomenal guitarist in Amsterdam when he was there with Herbie Hancock, he had been playing with my brother and when I came to the US I soon thereafter got in his band and played with him on and off for the next nearly 40 years. I loved that band because it allowed us to go anywhere, from funk to salsa to Caribbean etc.

Thru him I ended up with Pete Escovedo’s band and have played with him on and off for nearly 40 years I learned so much from all of them, they had that real Bay Area sound and I loved it.

AC: You have recorded with people like Stevie Winwood, what was that like, and you else have you recorded with throughout the years?

VW: I have recorded a lot with Ray Obiedo on his CD’s and many people he produced and lots of Pete Escovedo records Sheila E, Linda Tillery, David Garibaldi, Tom Grant, Cornelius Bumpus, RAD, VW Brothers etc.

AC: Tell us about being in Wayne Brady’s house band, what was the scene like, the pros and cons of a TV gig?

VW: The Wayne Brady show was just a total joy for me; we had a great band including Peter Michael Escovedo, William Kennedy, Jeff Babco, Wayne Linsey and Toshi Yanagi.

We got to back up just about anybody you can think of and so it made for a fantastic two years. It was a daily talk show, so we worked every day during the week.

AC: Tell us about your relationship with the Escovedo family, you worked with them for years.

VW: Yes, I started with Pete in the early eighties, they really are like my second family, they are so welcoming to everyone and all unbelievably funny.

Pete was and is a fantastic bandleader. I never heard a cross word from him and he allowed us to do anything musically and we would take some crazy left turns. With Pete we would go from Latin jazz to funk to Brazilian music and it represented all what makes that Bay Area sound

On the Wayne Brady show Peter Michael was an amazing bandleader as well, he knows how to make everyone at ease. It was just a real pleasure.

Sheila is just a force of nature all the way around, whenever I am a little tired before a concert, I think of her and her unbelievable energy. She is a great musician and a great entertainer always looking to find a gimmick for me! Juan is a great conga player.

AC: How did you get to sub on bass for Tower of Power back in the day? What did you think of their music, was it a big departure from jazz?

VW: David Garibaldi and I played with Ray Obiedo a few times and then we both went on tour with a band called Rad which was a situation where we could really play East Bay funk together and we got along well, when Rocco needed a transplant TOP was looking for a sub and David recommended for me to audition.

I loved the TOP music and had seen them play in Amsterdam in 1975 and it was awesome. Although I didn’t grow up as a quote unquote R&B bass player, I always listened to it and through bands like Sheila E, Ray Obiedo’s kick, Pete Escovedo and Tim Kaihatsu I learned a lot about the East Bay funk feel.

AC: A few years back you had a tragic accident while playing with TOP in Oakland which was a life changing event, who helped you through this and what are some of the life lessons you learned from this dramatic experience?

VW: Yes, we were playing six nights at Yoshi’s and on the last night David and I were hit by an Amtrak train that appeared out of nowhere without warning.

It was serious trauma and we are still dealing with the after effects as I was only minutes from dying. I learned it can be over in an instant and although I am still trying to figure out some of the lessons, I have understood to appreciate my loved ones even more!

AC: Tell us about the benefit they did to raise money for some medical bills incurred.

VW: Unbeknown to me Peter Michael Escovedo organized a concert as did Tommy Igoe for us where they raised money for us, and not only that but Peter Michael also set up an go fund me page and recorded a CD in my name called ‘’raise the Marc’’ It just blows me away, the generosity of people all around was astounding.

AC: Who played on the CD what kinds of tunes did they play?

VW: They had Sheila E, Dave Koz, Pete Escovedo, Marc Russo, Ray Obiedo, Peter Horvath, Mike Blankenship, Juan Escovedo, Bertron Curtis, Bob Crawford, Raymond McKinley, Dave Belove, Daniel Parenti, Joshua Moreau, Phil Hawkins, Nate Mercereau, Norbert Stachel, Joel Berhman, Jeff Cressman, Dino Soldo, Alex Murzyn,Eddie M, John Bendich, John Santos, Jesus Diaz, Derek Rolando, Renee Escovedo, Juanita Escovedo, Tony Lindsey, Leah Tysse, Larry Braggs, Sy Smith, Sandy Cressman Michelle Hawkins, and Shellie Havis Ruffin.

It really was a mixture of everything, everyone contributed, and I think it really is a great CD

AC: Where can people still purchase the CD, I understand all the proceeds are still going to pay down some of those bills?

VW: It can be purchased at the usual online outlets, I Tunes, Amazon, Google music.

AC: When you were laid up in the hospital did you ever think you would be back on the road doing the thing you loved the Best? Did this life experience inform your musical depth and fervor?

VW: No, I never thought about anything as I spent two months in the ICU it was more like just being and surviving all the complications but when I finally got home, I knew I would eventually try again. I do think it added to my attitude towards music and the gratitude I feel to play.

AC: How long did it take you to get your chops back and when and under what circumstances did you get the call to replace the retiring Rocco Prestia from Tower of Power?

VW: It took a few months to slowly start practicing again little by little and then I did a gig at the San Jose Jazz festival with Ray Obiedo. Then towards the end of the year I got the call from Emilio and so I went from just a few gigs here and there to a full-time job with TOP

AC: Tell us about the TOP 50th anniversary? What does it mean to you to be a member of band with such a musical legacy?

VW: The 50th anniversary was a great experience we rehearsed several days, and we had Lenny Picket, Bruce Conte, Chester Thompson Rocco and Ray Green then we had ten string players, singers Tony Lindsey, Melanie Cracchiolo this really a highlighted the experience.

It truly is such an honor to play with Tower of Power I can’t say that enough. I love the music I love the dedication of everyone in the band they still always try to improve. I am grateful

AC: You had some huge shoes to fill from Rocco, what do you bring musically to the table?

VW: Let’s be honest Rocco is a legend, he is unique in every way and he and David had the perfect chemistry. It’s the kind of thing you occasionally encounter. I think what I bring to the table is 40 years of playing many styles of music and although I honor the important bass lines Rocco created, I have a style of my own and slowly but surely am adding that style into the music.

AC: You seem to have special chemistry with Dave Garibaldi and Roger Smith can you explain that?

VW: David and I share a love for different styles of music such as Afro Cuban Brazilian etc. so it gives us more to tap from and although we were friends before the accident tied us together forever. Roger is a phenomenal player and wonderful human being, he is such a pleasure to work with.

AC: TOP has one of the most rigorous touring schedules in the business is it hard living on the road, does it affect the quality of the music presentation?

VW: I have never heard it affect the quality of the music and its presentation, our singer Marcus Scott gives it everything every night and so does everyone else. Because of the 50th Anniversary I understand it was an extra busy year and yes, as I am not in top shape, yet it wasn’t always easy. But hey it’s all good.

Also, as David mentioned the other day the more you play the tighter and better it gets, and you have a chance to pick up more and more details.

AC: What are some of the other things you like to do aside from music?

VW: I really would like to get back to a place where I can play tennis again and bicycle. I am a social person so love dinners (although I lost my sense of taste and smell) and hanging out with friends.

AC: When it’s all said and done what would you like your legacy to be how would you like history to remember you?

VW: I want to be remembered as a good person and if people enjoyed the music so much the better!!!


Comments
Nanette Lanz January 15, 2019

Marc is a great guy! Very humble and VERY talented! I was fortunate enough to meet him and his wife in the 90’s. And I followed his music in numerous night clubs throughout the Bay Area over the years. He gave us fans a big scare when this awful train accident happened! So many hoped and prayed for his recovery! We are blessed that he is back on stage!

Roseann January 15, 2019

Your great! When I heard about the accident, I prayed for you guys and I’m so glad your back , well both of you! Stay strong and your music will for fill my ears forever!

SJC.rosie

Daniel Herd January 17, 2019

Fabulous interview AC! So informative.Marc has been has been slaying the bay area music scene for decades, your informative interview made it personal…awesome musical background!

One-Hunnid AC!

Ron Iamelli January 18, 2019

Great story I’ve been a fan of T.O.P. Since the early 70’s being a Bostonian for the past 65 years I can tell you we hate change of any kind so when I heard Rocco was retiring I said that’s it it’s all over, however being clean and sober for the past 30 years I’ve done my best to except change and am I glad I have. First and Foremost I so happy for Mark’s recovery for him and his loved one’s and I’m certain that this blissing will live in his music and that gift will be shared with all of us. Looking forward to more amazing music from some of the most talented musicians can’t wait to see you when you come to the northeast. Thank You and God Bless, Ron Iamelli

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