When New York drummer Lee Finkelstein got the call to cover Dave Garibaldi’s chair for a string of gigs with Tower Of Power, he had every reason to feel well prepared. In a career spanning over twenty years, Finkelstein has built up a reputation as one of the funkiest and most versatile drummers in town, playing with artists as diverse as Ben E. King, Donna Summer, and Bill Cosby. (Lee was the studio drummer for The Cosby Show.) And, oh yeah, he is the co-founder, drummer, and leader of the twelve-piece Funk Filharmonik, which for eighteen years has been serving up soulful dollops of the music of none other than Tower Of Power.
As for Finkelstein’s work with TOP, the drummer embarked on what he calls “an educational, ass-kicking, and humbling experience.” He had two day’s notice, no rehearsal, and only a soundcheck to get acclimated to the band. “Garibaldi has some of the biggest shoes on the planet to fill,” Lee says. “I raised my seat and changed the position of my snare so I could play with more of an edge’they kept telling me to “push more.” During my soundcheck/rehearsal, I went for a Funk Filharmonik fill that I usually do, and it was like someone pulled the plug on a treadmill and five guys kept running – I had to cop the Garibaldi fill. After the fourth show I was getting on the bus and thinking to myself that it felt great. Just then saxophonist and leader Emilio Castillo turned to me and said, “Man, you sounded great tonight.’ It really felt good to get that confirmation.”