Tony Rivera Band
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Tony Rivera Band

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The best kept secret in music


"Serving up the blues with a side of flamenco"

Tony Rivera's mix of musical traditions wakes up tired cover tunes

By Allan Finn

Elmwood Park - The spirits of Spanish gypsies and African slaves were channeled…this past Saturday, as the music both people helped to forge rocked, hard and harmoniously, out of the Tony Rivera Band's sound system.
…after Rivera moseyed up to the mike and began playing a rollicking interpretation of the Led Zeppelin classic "Bring It On Home," all doubts over whether the rowdy, bar-hopping masses would connect with the music were squelched. The band had them on their feet
…The set list included fast-and-loose covers of some of classic rock's most famous crowd-pleasing hits. Highlights included a spiced-up interpretation of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" and "Blowin' In the Wind," a fresh, flamenco take on Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl," and four Grateful Dead tunes that led to some frenetic improvisations.

The jams gave the band plenty of great moments to showcase its musical muscle and vocal ability (Rivera and bassist Fred Scholl sang like every song was an encore) - and as pros, they knew how to shine without crossing the line into self-indulgent tedium.
…"I think Tony's a real talented guy. He's creative and expressive without being cliché. They're a great band," raved Brian Fitzpatrick, a singer-songwriter from Clifton.
…The idea to meld the two genres into what Rivera terms "Blue Age" came to him five years ago, when he was studying both styles simultaneously and grew tired of having to switch guitars in between practice sessions.

Blues players traditionally use a steel-string guitar, either electric or acoustic. With flamenco, a nylon string guitar is the standard, giving it a higher tension resulting in a "brighter, more staccato sound" similar to classical guitars, Rivera noted. The songs they choose are based on the defining blues-chord progressions that can continue on indefinitely. When Rivera applies his traditional right-handed flamenco technique, it creates a faster, more aggressive sound.

Yet, the fusion sounded surprisingly natural, which is strange considering the blues originated as African spirituals and the work songs of slaves on plantations; and flamenco - developed by poor, oppressed gypsies and indigenous Andalusians following the Moors' 1492 expulsion from Spain – was played for celebrations, rituals and dancing. But the blues have always proven malleable enough to withstand any transmutation.
…"Flamenco songs are usually named after emotions or places. 'Allegrias' [a famous flamenco song] for instance, means 'happiness' - and when you listen to the song, that's exactly what you feel. And the blues similarly draw out these distinct emotions," said Rivera.

"There is an expression commonly used in the blues - 'We've got to bring these people home' - it means that you've got to get them to remember their homes, the good and bad times," added Rivera. "It's emotional and it reminds you of why you go to work, sit in traffic all day; why you live and why you breathe. It's the common ground all good music shares."

- The Shopper News


Gypsy ~ released in 2001.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Created more than 3 years ago, members of The Tony Rivera Band have been entertaining audiences throughout the NY tri-state area for the past 20 years. With much encouragement from fans, friends and music aficionados, Tony Rivera, in 2001, created the band that hails his name. Combining Rivera’s Flamenco Blues guitar playing with the best musicians Rivera has the privilege to perform with, the band delivers contemporary originals and recognizable classic rock music in an intense Flamenco Blues fashion.

The Tony Rivera Band combines the best of New Orleans-style Blues with the bold flavor of Flamenco guitar. The band’s repertoire inclues original songs as well as melodies from the Grateful Dead, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and other classic rock artists. In recreating classical rock tunes, each melody is infused with its own Flamenco Blues style.

Influenced by percussive intensity, Rivera’s Flamenco Blues naturally delivers intense emotional responses from its audience. The music captivates and mesmerizes listeners with its mysterious and intoxicating cadences. The intense rhythms transforms the entire band with the cadences taking over each member in its own unique way, causing a synchronicity between Flamenco and Blues.

In 1997, Rivera began recording his first CD, Gypsy, and, in ‘98, he formed the band Touch. Performing cover songs as well as originals, Rivera infused contemporary music and Rhythm and Blues with Flamenco guitar, mixing Disco, Flamenco, Southern Rock, Latin and Gospel music.

Rivera attended the Juan Orozco School of Flamenco Guitar in New York City. For 8 years, he studied under the tutelage of Emilio Prados, Mario Escudero (who inspired Paco de Lucia), and Mr. Juan Orozco. In 1986, Rivera enrolled in the American Institute of Guitar (AIG) where he studied under the most sought after Flamenco guitar teacher, Dennis Koster. During this time, Rivera began training in the Blues, educating himself on various styles and from various teachers, eventually going all the way to the tracks.

In addition to Rivera, the Tony Rivera Band is made up of the following NY/NJ based musicians:

Fred Scholl ~ Multi-instrumentalist Fred Scholl is the "utility player" of the band, providing bass, keyboards, vocals and occasional guitar. Fred is known to NY/NJ area audiences for his work with the improvisational rock bands Bartleby and Electric Jelly, and also has an extensive background in traditional American acoustic and jazz guitar, having studied with the legendary Joe Monk. His solo steel-string guitar playing, heavily steeped in blues and ragtime picking styles, often results in exploratory and passionate instrumental ramblings.

Huw Phillips ~ The band’s keyboardist, Huw Phillips, playing for more years than he cares to admit, specializes in the Hammond B3 organ. Most recently, he played with improvisational NY/NJ bands including Electric Jelly and Rooster. Prior to that, he played in numerous bands in London, UK and other parts of Europe. Huw is particularly excited to be part of the Tony Rivera project as flamenco-jamband-blue age bands are thin on the ground in his native Wales.

Jimmy Allan ~ Jimmy Allan developed a love for drums while in High School. Three and a half years later and after receiving the Music Excellence Award from Ridgefield Park (NJ) High School, Allan began an intense period of self study. A keen observer, Allan immersed himself in a variety of music, avidly studying concert and live performance videos, observing what got the crowds moving by imitating the styles of various performers and musical genres, including Blues, Reggae and Latin music. Years of practice has allowed Allan to create his own unique style of playing. A full-time drummer Allan performs in 5 NJ-area bands.

Alvin Harrison James Alvin Harrison’s art crosses many platforms. From being a skilled Bassist, to an
incredible painter to a craftsman who makes his own guitars, Harrison’s talent knows no boundaries. Playing Bass for more than 25 years, self-taught Harrison’s first influence was Virginia-based Drummer and Bass play, Lee Tate. Inspired, Harrison spent countless hours learning and experimenting with the funk music and rapid playing that personified Tate. Upon moving from Virginia to New Jersey, Harrison began performing in local clubs and has been the bassist for FM, Busta Chops, The Pawn Shop Blues Band and, most recently, Stir Fried. While in Stir Fried, Harrison played with Buddy Cage, member of New Riders of the Purple Sage, Vassar Clements, renowned fiddler player and Peter Moffet, well-known jazz piano player and member of the Moffett Clan.