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Backstage With Elias – Tiger Chung Lee

I’m going to break some of my rules with this feature. Writing about local bands was not necessarily on my radar, and a cover band at that. But this one was much too interesting and fun to pass up. It’s not even an interview with the musicians, it’s more like a testimonial.

My friend Chris texted me early last week, and asked if I would be available for production work for his new band’s debut show at Foley’s in Niagara Falls. I checked the calendar, and the date was available. I’ve heard some buzz about the group on social media, a bit of a different song selection, and an interesting collection of musicians. One of my favorite things about what I do is working with the musicians, and this lineup did not disappoint.

The group is called Tiger Chung Lee, presumably named after a WWF wrestling personality from the ’80s. I showed up to the venue, not really sure what to expect, and to my surprise, it would be an 11 piece group, with 5 horns, drums, bass, 2 guitars, percussion, and lead vocalist. This was not a conventional bar band, I should have asked ahead of time, that was my fault. I thought they were a 7 piece band, then a 9 piece.

The lineup, in order of appearance this night was Chris Oursler on bass, Jeff Schaller on drums, then Rob Tweedie on percussion, electronics, and banjo showed up. It was starting to get interesting. The guitars come in, Matt Sirianni, and the founder of the group Tony Aversa. At this point, the lineup was becoming a blur. I had to consciously focus just to keep up with the players and names. Then the horn section arrived, Jim Bohm on trumpet, John O’Malley on trombone, Joe Malvesuto on alto sax and flute, Eric Crittenden on tenor sax, Ryan Aderhold on baritone sax. Somewhere along the way, Jeff Hypnarowski, the lead vocalist just blended in… In my mind, I’m simplifying it on the fly, but it was a big setup no matter how you sliced it. We dialed everyone in, and hit without a sound check, no time.


It was quite a load to carry, but it was so worth it. Here was a sizeable group, from different music scenes, blended together. The result was a funky mix of r&b staples, not so overly played rock and roll classics, hot solos, and a great all around groove. The 5 piece horn section filled in their parts quite creatively, adding sweet flavors to numbers like “Burning Down the House”, “Eminence Front”, “Fame”, and other tunes from all different genres. The baritone sax added a depth which too often goes unnoticed, probably because there aren’t a lot of baritone sax players to go around. It completed the horn section, and complemented the rhythm section quite nicely.


The show went off without too many hiccups, and they put the first time out mistakes behind them rather quickly. It ended up being a fun, no holds barred onslaught of funk and regrooved numbers worthy of a double over hook suplex. They had the audience pinned to the mat all evening long, and the full house loved every minute of it.


Overall, the group has a lot of potential. The diverse lineup makes the possibilities interesting and appealing, with a wealth of local bands in their background. From the heavy sounds of Suckerpunch, to the funky urban groove of Critt’s Juke Joint, to Steely Dan tribute act Group Therapy, to the hot jazzy vibe of Winelight, and the list goes on…tons of tasty ingredients in their collective back pocket.


The group has a number of dates throughout the region this summer including this Saturday, June 6 at Buffalo Iron Works. If you appreciate a collection of quality musicians having a good time entertaining, this show is for you.

Follow the band here:

Photos courtesy of Carl Cederman


Written by Elias Benavides

Elias Benavides

A goofy kid from Buffalo's lower west side who loved to play the guitar and loved live music. Has moved on to sound engineering, stage lighting, anything live music. Now he's writing about musicians on BR too. Why am I talking in the third person?

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