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TONY LOVELLO: HE CAME! HE PLAYED! HE CONQUERED!

By Dick Schiller

There are few experiences in the life of an accordionist that could compare with the performances of the past two months at BAAC. First in April, Jorgen Sundeqvist and Oivand Farmen brought to us the finest in classical accordion playing, a treasure that most of the world is unaware of. And at our May meeting, Tony Lovello displayed for us the Big Band sound with power and excitement rarely witnessed in our club.

Tony, 67, came to play with the fire of a man on a mission. "I come to let the audience know that I know what I'm doing and when I play I'm going to prove to you that I know what I'm doing!" He stated with perfect Yogi Berra logic. To make it perfectly clear, Tony considers his accordion his own personal two-fisted orchestra, with strings and drums represented by his bass side and the brass and woodwinds by his piano keys. Then, he utilizes both to the fullest in presenting his unique style of playing. I noticed, too, he has an uncanny sense of his keyboard and can strike any note or chord at will without looking - including flourishes, big finishes and slamming his hand for the final note from arm's length. He can do blind 2-3-4 note glissandos all down the keyboard and stop anywhere he wants to, cleanly. Most of all, he is a master of the bellows shake using it extensively to embellish his offerings and playing some songs all the way through like he was doing an accordion pizzacato (in the latter case, he's truly an iron man having a 28-pound accordion and no fear).

His fantastic playing becomes all the more incredible when you find out that Tony is totally deaf in his left ear, and only 48% sensitive in his right. "I have no idea what my left hand is sounding like." Well, all of us did and it was beautiful, Tony. He is really a player who has total control of his instrument and uses it to its fullest potential: It sings, it dances, it tells jokes, it roars, it whispers - above all, it made everyone happy.

As Tony unleashed the best of Big Band accordion sounds, he moved comfortably through the audience and made contact with everyone. He was a perfect showman as well as a consummate player and above all a warm, likable person. During his performance he reprised some of his hit recordings like, Twilight Time and Peg of My Heart, and also brought us up to date with Phantom of the Opera - and betcha-your-boots he didn't forget Italian tunes with a name like Lovello. He virtually had the capacity audience in the palm of his hand with a continuous flow of tunes, songs, and stories - including how his brother Sam produced Hee Haw and Tony passed it up and missed out on a zillion dollars.

For me, his showpiece offering was his interpretation of Ernesto Lecuona's Malaguena. For that, he turned off the amplification and turned in what was one of the most incredible physically dynamic performances I've ever seen on the accordion. It had to be seen to be believed, with a continuous bellows shake that formed the foundation of an unmatchable bravura performance, showcasing all that an accordion is capable of - wow! It was a capable accordion, too, and no spring chicken (like Tony); it was a 40-year old Petosa that stood up to everything Tony handed it and responded with a rich, beautiful tone. He received numerous standing ovations from the most appreciative audience.

One of Tony's parting remarks was, "Where are the young people to continue on? We need an all out effort to make the youngsters aware of what this wonderful instrument has to offer". Well, Tony, that's exactly what BAAC tries to do and your appearance was a big step in that direction. Thanks! 

So, folks, one of the great accordionists of our day passed our way in May and I wonder if we'll ever be the same.

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