It was pretty bizarre when I went back to Vegas, you know, because I started getting a name for myself, and then that’s when, not too long after that, I got the gig at the Hilton orchestra. I stayed there a good eight years and on the band was James Moody, tenor player, phenomenal player, became like a father image to me, also. Carl Fontana, the great trombone player one of the best in the world if not the best in the world, Sam Noto to a great trumpet player coming out of Stan Kenton, Alex Acuna was on the band for a little while. He later went with Weather Report. It was a phenomenal band, phenomenal, some other players perhaps you had never heard of. We did all the TV shows there because they did them at the Hilton. So I got experience with television work.
Alex: and relying on the ability to read and play nice with others.
Tony: You have to read, you know, because the pressure is on. I became a good reader on the gig and when I had some spots in my reading that I had to work on I would go into LA on my day off and study. I studied with Joe Valenti who was orchestra leader at the LA Philharmonic as he was teaching sight reading to old studio guys, whatever little glitches, and you know the things they had to like, brush up on. He really helped me a lot.
Alex: It sounds like you were constantly looking to improve and learn from everyone you were exposed to. It’s great that you share those lessons with your students. Were there any special techniques developed along the way?
Tony: I have a picking technique that comes from the violin.
I studied with this picking genius at right hand plectrum technique because he was initially a violinist. He went way back to working with the old Paul Whiteman Orchestra and Eugene Ormandy. He was a violinist before the guitar was popular, his name was Joe Sgro.