Rhythm Up
(R. Austin Records)


A guitarist on a mission, N.J. based Rich Tozzoli comes alive on the 2010 release of Rhythm Up. Featuring Tozzoli firing on all cylinders in the studio, the ten track Rhythm Up features Tozzoli on both electric lead and acoustic finger-style guitar tracks, getting primo backup from a number of players including a round of top drummers in Ray Levier and Shawn Pelton. Also kicking in fresh energy is engineer and album co-producer / drummer and all around electronics wizard Vincent Miraglia. Tozzoli’s sound is clearly instrumental rock based fusion although several of the acoustic guitar flavored tracks are really atmospheric and the sonic grandeur of track seven “Palisades Parkway” is a definite keeper. Fans of stately guitar instrumentals from giants like Hank Marvin and Sandals fretboard genius John Blakeley should hunt this CD down. There’s also a good Steve Morse comparison knockin' around in there. With his nimble fretboard touch, Tozzoli’s calling card as a top guitarist, producer, mixer, composer and sound designer is no doubt shaped by his love of the fine guitars and vintage amps in abundance here. Decked out in fine digi-pak design, the CD sound is also enhanced by additional string arrangements by David Henry capped off by mastering at NYC’s fabled Sterling Sound. An amazing sounding, state of the art sounding instrumental jazz-rock fusion album that will blow you away, Rhythm Up yields some very positive musical results indeed. proudly presents Rich Tozzoli - Guitars Center Stage.

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Musical Background

I've been playing both acoustic and electric since I was 14 or 15. I had this tiny little Yamaha acoustic guitar that I bought at the local music store – that was my first taste. After getting further into it, I picked up my first Tobacco Les Paul Standard when I was like 16, a guitar I still record with to this day. I studied with different teachers, from reggae to jazz to funk to R&B. I loved learning new grooves – I’m essentially a groove player, but enjoy melodic soloing as well.

I played in different kinds of bands, including cool funk bands with full horn sections and the works. I’ve also played in reggae bands and rock bands, but always did original material.

I always had a fascination with the bass, and have been playing that for many years as well. There’s something about carrying the bottom of the mix that a guitar can’t do. I love the sound of old Fender basses, and I actually put down the guitar for a few years just to play bass in a band. But to be a good bass player, you have to loose the guitar mentality and focus on the J.P. Jones and Jamersons of the world. You also have to learn to get that tone with the fingers that a pick can’t get.

Another aspect of my musical background is that I’ve spent a lot of time on the other side of the glass recording, composing, mixing and producing. I was fascinated with music technology and digital recording before Pro Tools came out. I’ve always believed in investing in good, high-end gear, and really learning how to use it. I had one of the first Pro Tools rigs around, and that was when 16 channels cost 16 grand!

So I really got into Pro Tools and even went out on the road with Emerson, Lake & Palmer at one point with my rig. I still remember Greg Lake coming up to me in his accent saying ‘Richard, show me this Pro Tools thing!’ Too funny…. Then I got deeply into 5.1 Surround Sound production. I was able to mix projects ranging from David Bowie and Billy Squire to Blue Oyster Cult and Hall & Oates – who we got a Grammy nomination for this year along with engineer Pete Moshay.

But capturing killer guitar tones was always my calling. I’ve done a lot of work with guys like Al DiMeola, and also recorded a lot of Ace Frehley’s last record. I can’t say enough about how much I’ve learned from engineering and mixing for guys like Al, Billy and Ace. I’ve been blessed to sit next to sit next to some amazing guitar players and get their sound on ‘tape’. But from those experiences, you learn about style, tone, approach, technique and attitude just by being there with them for so many hours.

New CD

Rhythm Up was made spontaneously. It was really inspired by picking up a Black Les Paul Custom that came from the Gibson Custom Shop. It was like a light went on above me – the tone, neck, feel and attitude of the guitar were so ‘me’. I was so into the sound that guitar got through my amps, that I just said ‘its time to make a record’.

I also came to realize that I’d composed and played on literally hundreds of TV tracks, done lots of other people’s guitar records, but never put something out of my own. The songs just came to me out of nowhere, except I did re-record two TV cues that I thought were cool.

So literally within days of deciding to make the record, I was up at Clubhouse Studios in Rhinebeck, NY tracking with drummer Ray Levier. Engineer/owner Paul Antonell dialed up some killer drum sounds in the big room using his array of old mics through the vintage Neve – an amazing board. I’d end up heavily compressing the room mics later at the mix stage - part of what helps give that big drum sound that can stand up to the guitars.

Then it was back home to my studio where I worked out my guitar parts. But to really capture the amp sounds, I recorded at The Lab with Vincent Miraglia, who I’ve known since middle school! He co-produced the record with me, and he happens to be a great amp designer / tech, engineer and tube guru.

We used a Royer 121 ribbon, Sennheiser 421’s and ‘57s to get the amp tones, mostly through a Focusrite ISA 428. But we also used a Universal Audio LA610, Earthworks 1024 and a cool dog called a Magnasync – an old tube film dubber with a dark, vibey sound.

I tend to record guitar, cable, and amp, as it always gets the best tone. But I’d often use the Creation Audio Labs MK.4.23 Boost Pedal, which provides clean gain to the amp. We’d drive the input stage and it really creates a razor sharp attack to each note.

So we dialed in an arsenal of amps that we referred to as the “Whack Stack”. He had a ‘64 Bassman head, a ‘64 Princeton and a ’47 Gibson GA-25. I had my ’66 Magnatone M10A, ’62 Gibson Falcon, ’47 Gibson BR-6, ’91 Mesa Boogie MK IV and an ’81 Music Man 112RD. We also had a 4X12 Marshall and a 4X12 Boogie cab.

Depending on what the song needed, we’d mix and match amps and cabinets. He would sometimes tube swap, bias the amps hot, and we’d just play and listen. I could feel the attack change with certain tubes, as well as the type of crunch they’d provide. Different brands of the same tubes really are different! If we hit on something, we’d track it immediately.

Since it was a guitar record, we spent a lot of time getting the amps right. There’s no doubt that driving tube amps hot and loud changes how you hit the strings, and ultimately that comes across through the mics. Magnatones don’t sound like Gibsons, which don’t sound like Fenders. So we’d use whatever worked best for the song.

On a few songs, I worked with drummer Shawn Pelton at his studio in New York City. I also had the late great T Bone Wolk come in and play bass on a few cuts, as did Brian Mackewich and fretless player Joe Capozio. On the song “Bed of Coals”, which Joe played on, Lee Baronian and Dave Hull did some cool Middle Eastern percussion and Andy Munitz played violin. Vincent Miraglia also played percussion and drums on that tune. It was a tough one to mix!

Part of what I was also going for on this record was to expand my orchestration chops – something I continue to study with several teachers. On a few songs, I’d compose the string parts for cello and viola in Pro Tools, then using FTP, upload the files, midi notes, and music to David Henry in Nashville. He would then record the parts down there, and FTP them back to me as a Pro Tools session. Of course, he would add in his own touch. My parts would be a guide for him to work from, as you can’t beat letting a talented string player do what they do best. That actually applies to any great player – let them do their thing! But I learned a lot from listening to what he did with my basic ideas. Studying orchestration can also really help with the arrangement of guitar ideas – especially on acoustic pieces that breathe.

Since I’ve also done a lot of work with the great flamenco guitarist Hernan Romero, he laid down a beautiful part on the acoustic song “Over The Horizon”. He has an amazing tone and technique, and I used 2 Earthworks QTC-1 mics and a DPA 4099 clip on mic, all through the Earthworks 1024 preamp to capture his sound.

I used my Guild F50 on that song, capoed on the 3rd fret. I played all the acoustic songs on the record in DADGAD, and also used my Guild D66 Gruhn model, Guild JF4-12 12 string and a Hi String guitar. All the acoustic guitars were recorded with the Earthworks/DPA combination, some at my studio and some at The Lab. There’s actually three acoustic cuts on Rhythm Up, which - production wise, also helps to give the ear a break.

Slide master Sam Broussard, from Lafayette, LA. also guested on the song “Stinkpot.” He’s one hell of a player, and like David Henry, cut his parts down at his studio, sending them back via FTP when finished.

So assembling all the tracks, I mixed the record back at my studio on my Pro Tools HD rig. For mastering, I took it to Chris Athens at Sterling Sound in New York. Then it was done! I’d done the whole record from its first idea to completion in just a few months. I had so much fun making it I’m ready to do another.

Favorite Guitars

I've always been a Les Paul guy at heart. To me, its about that thick, nasty tone and sustain that no other guitar can get. So I have my old Tobacco Standard, as well as the main guitar from Rhythm Up, the black Les Paul Custom. They both have very hot pickups in them, DiMarzios in the Standard and Gibson 490R’s and 498T’s in the Custom.

But funny enough, when I play out, it’s mainly my American Standard Tele, which I bought at Matt Uminov’s in NYC a long time ago. Tele’s can funk and groove and be smooth, but they fight you too – a good thing when playing hard rhythms. I used that on the song “Driven” through the Bassman head. Can’t go wrong with that combo.

I have all my Guild acoustics, and just picked up both a jumbo Guild F512 and a beautiful Martin 000-18 Norman Blake with a 12-fret neck and Mahogany back and sides. New guitars inspire new tracks.

As for basses, I played my ‘70 Precision on a few Rhythm Up tunes, and Joe Capozio played my ’77 Precision fretless – both of which are strung up with DR’s. They both went through the Creation Audio Labs MW1 Studio Tool direct into Pro Tools, where I’d add some compression and filter out some bottom.

Since I do a lot of TV music, I also have a Strat customized by Don Mare, a Fender Jaguar Baritone, a high string, and so on. All my guitars are strung up with D’Addario strings, and I prefer Phosphorous Bronze for the acoustics, and Light Top/Heavy Bottom nickel wound XLs on the electrics. I have to say, I owe a lot to Rob DiStefano at Fret Tech, who keeps them all tuned up and happy.

I have a lot of guitars, but I really do use them all.

Musical Influences

Kiss got it all started for me, with Alive and Alive II. Then I naturally gravitated to Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Pink Floyd. From there I got into Yes and Genesis, then came across The Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck and Rush. I was drawn to anybody who had a unique sound and style.

I was inspired by the style and approach of the players I listened to, not the exact notes. It was a very creative time to learn guitar, as you had the aggression of Page and Perry with the odd times and precision of Lifeson, the fusion of Beck or the blues of Betts/Allman. I became a really strong rhythm player, but could always wail out a lead if I wanted to.

Funny thing is, growing up I never really learned to play the songs of the bands I loved listening to, as my friends and I always played our own music, or just jammed on jazz progressions. The great thing is, I still jam with those same friends all these years later. Many of us, myself included, still have the same guitars – you gotta love that!

To this day though, I’m still really glad we would just make up songs, as I can creatively bang out a TV track literally in minutes. Funny, people always say “play a song I know”, and I’m always like, “I don’t know any!”!

Upcoming Plans

I’ve been working on a new all acoustic CD, and doing a cool project called The Deep Dig with guitarist/producer Scott E. Moore. It’s like groovy film music with vibey guitar sounds. I might be heading out on the road to Europe with Hernan Romero in the fall – but we’ll see. For now, I’m having fun doing other peoples records composing TV tracks. I just wish I didn’t have to change strings so often!

Web Site

My website is and you can get me there!


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