VALLEJO — He’s back.
Just a few weeks after playing with Tower of Power at the Solano County Fair, Tom Politzer, the band’s lead tenor sax player, is stepping out on his own. Politzer will do some solo work Wednesday at the Empress Theatre as part of Soulshine, a jam-style concert focused on funk, soul, blues and R&B music.
“I am honored to be asked to do this,” Politzer said. Musicians often deal with a lot of self-doubt, so being asked to do solo work is especially gratifying, he said.
The Detroit native grew up in Palo Alto. He started playing the clarinet when he was 10. He joined school bands and local youth orchestras.
His parents loved opera, so popular music was foreign until his junior year in high school. The jazz band needed someone to fill the baritone sax chair. He stepped forward, with some trepidation.
Playing Maynard Ferguson, Buddy Rich and Tower of Power’s “Squib Cakes” opened a whole new world.
“Had I not made the switch, I don’t think I would have become a professional musician,” he writes in his website bio. “The switch changed my life forever.”
Politzer joined Tower of Power about 12 years ago. The first few years were an adjustment, not to being part of a band, but to having a regular gig.
“Musicians are used to suffering,” he said. “You’re always looking for a gig. Before Tower, I could look to my calendar four months ahead and see I was out of work.”
Now, that calendar is filled.
“Your plane tickets are handed to you,” he said. “You’re told, ‘Here’s where you are going on what date.’ Life becomes all these little things you don’t have to worry about.”
It also lulled him into complacency.
“I thought I was growing in Tower of Power, but my other skills were getting rusty,” he said. “So I put myself into as many playing situations as I can on the road.”
He’s taking clarinet lessons for personal satisfaction. Politzer also plays with the Tommy Igoe Big Band at Yoshi’s San Francisco.
“I can’t just show up and play the gig,” he said. “I have to look at the music and practice. I have to get prepared.”
Politzer is also a fairly regular guest at middle school music classes. He said he learns more than the students.
“It reminds me how important the fundamentals are,” he said. “They give me their energy and creativity and their thirst for something new.”
He loves guest appearances and dreams of getting to play with Sting some day.
“I think he’s one of the greatest,” Politzer said. “I just love his music.”
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.