Mic Gillette was a trombonist and trumpeter and member of the funk/soul group Tower of Power, who has died at the age of 64, reports SF Gate. A close friend and bandmate, Emilio Castillo, confirms that his friend died of a heart attack.
“Mic was without a doubt the greatest brass player I’ve ever known,” Castillo, Tower of Power band leader, wrote on Facebook. “My heart will never be as full, and the music will never be as lively.”
Mic Gillette was already playing the trumpet and reading music by the time he was 4-years-old. As a teenager, Gillette joined a band called Gotham City Crime Fighters in the bay area, whose name was later changed to Tower of Power. Mic played both the trumpet and the trombone, as well as the tuba and baritone. After a brief hiatus playing with a different band, he joined Tower of Power on the road, opening for artists like Santana and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“I really enjoy helping young aspiring musicians find their voice and look for their path,” Mr. Gillette said in the Blues at Greece interview. “I’ve had a wonderful professional life and have been very lucky to get so many great opportunities, but the way I would like most to be remembered, is by someone coming up to a great player maybe 20 or 30 years from now and asking them who were their influences. That is where I wish most to be mentioned and remembered.”
Tower of Power also got the opportunity to tour with legends like The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart, and Mic Gillette was a session player on hundreds of recordings, playing with Elton John, the Doobie Brothers, and even Sheryl Crow, among others. Mic was a key member of the horn section for Tower of Power, with the horn section being legendary for the last several decades.
Tower of Power really hit big and became mainstream in the ’70s, with classic songs like “Bump City” and “Back to Oakland.” Their soulful funk blend struck a chord with so many listeners.
According to Greg Brown, instrumental music director at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, Gillette was “an over-the-top supporter of young musicians and music in the schools” with everyone remembering him for being “always full of life, enthusiasm and incredibly inspirational.” Mic Gillette was also a very strong advocate for music education and was remembered as an incredible teacher at Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, helping several struggling music programs to stay alive.
Later in life, Gillette was still doing session work and playing live appearances. After he married, he was able to bring a long-time dream to life when he created his own band called the Mic Gillette Band (MGB). The band included his daughter, Megan Gillette McCarthy, Greg Barker, Dave Hawkes, Clint Day, and Matt Martinez. The group released its first album, Moon Doggy, in December of 1984.
“My philosophy is play every note the best you can,” Gillette said in an interview with Blues at Greece in 2014.
But even while this was going on, Gillette would spend a lot of his time doing clinics at middle schools as well as high schools. He served as a guest clinician at Northgate High School in Walnut Creek. Mic was able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for music departments in schools not only in California, but all over the country.
In 2009, after being away from Tower of Power for 26 years, Gillette rejoined the group, playing up until 2011.
Mic Gillette is survived by his wife Julia and his daughter Megan, as well as his grandson. Funeral arrangements are pending.
[Image via YouTube]