Lenny Feldmann - The CordeenMan


by Jay Landers

..."Will it play in Peoria?" Yes! Almost every year since 2000 "The Sultan of Squeeze" Tony Lovello has made concert appearances in Peoria, IL, under the auspices of the Peoria Area Accordion Club. In fact, the club is credited with helping to bring Tony out of "show business retirement".

Sunday, November 19, 2006, Tony played for an enthusiastic crowd of about 60 accordionists and enthusiasts at the German-American Central Society "Lindenhof". Lovello, a native of Buffalo, NY, will be 74 next month and has been playing the accordion since he was five, when his father taught him the fundamentals. Otherwise, Tony developed his unique set of skills by himself.

He straps on a "golden age" Petosa AM-1100 that is over 40 years old. Then, he effortlessly, and "wirelessly", stands..strolls...briskly walks...and fans the accordion in front of and among the audience! It's not possible to tether Tony, so he's used a wireless mic system for years and his sound comes out of twin Polytone Taurus Elite speakers.

Tony talks with and engages the audience throughout his performance, often rewarding them with free CD's if they know the English translation to an Italian title or if they "get it". For example, when an accordionist walks and bellows shakes at the same time, it's not merely a performance... it's "showing off"! Tony can do it, and he does it multiple times during a one-hour program.

Tony was still a teen when he was discovered by Eddie Cantor, famed entertainer of vaudeville, radio and motion pictures. The Lovullo family (Tony later changed that to Lovello) was living in Los Angeles. Tony was a teen accordion phenomenon, releasing his first album at 19 (with a wonderful article and review in the old "Accordion World" magazine). He performed with many big names in Hollywood, toured with them, and later had his own reviews in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe. Tony was also a member of the famed "The Three Suns".

They go by so fast...most of them...it's difficult to create a list of the tunes and performance numbers Tony presents during his program. The stand-out's include his trademark "Malaguena", which is almost entirely performed with bellows shake. "Cumina" is lightning fast. Many may remember this signature title from the Freddy Martin Orchestra. "The Mexican Hat Dance" requires audience participation. Anna Vogel stepped up to Tony's keyboard and provided the second-hand, two-note answer to his melody. Anna's little sister Mina stepped in throughout the performance as Tony's towel girl.

"Dark Eyes" was a lesson in accordion style as Tony compared a recent performance he observed by a young Russian accordionist with his own. "Twilight Time", "Peg 'O My Heart", and "Don't Take Your Love Away from Me" were all signature tunes from "The Three Suns". Tony performed them in their entirety, often with a lilting walking bass line. In fact, it goes overlooked, or taken for granted, that the entire time Tony is performing, his hands are playing something on his accordion. There's always a bass line even while he's speaking.

"The Theme from Ice Castles" was Tony's opening number. It was a study in contrasts demonstrating the dynamic range of the accordion and allowing Tony to showcase his trademark right arm vibrato. Many times throughout a single piece, and for the length of his programs, Tony will use "glissando's in thirds", three finger bass and chords, and his "six -finger" right-hand chord construction. Tony possesses a treasure trove of attention-getting techniques on the accordion.

Several members of the Peoria Club provided additional accordion entertainment, resulting in about three solid hours of non-stop music. Jay Landers performed solo's for about forty-five minutes prior to Tony's program. A segue was created with a special rendition of "Tony Boy" sung charmingly and convincingly by Shawn Denney with accompaniment by Jay, using Tony's arrangement of "Danny Boy" and other material. Wilanna Vogel, Peoria Club Program Chair, and Wayne Brodkorb, Peoria Club President, provided accordion and drums following Tony's performance. Tony joined them occasionally and there was dancing!

In the past six years Tony has criss-crossed the USA performing numerous times for every major national accordion convention, as well as regional, state and local accordion organizations and clubs. Along the way he's had five "Lifetime Achievement" awards bestowed on him. You can contact Tony Lovello at tlovello@ix.netcom.com or write him at PO Box 4433, Lexington, KY 40504.

(Jay Landers is a free-lance writer of accordion activities and accordionist living in Springfield, IL. You can contact him at jllanders5214@msn.com )