Arts & Entertainment


East River Blues Makes You Dance

The East River Blues Bandıs new CD.



Music lovers, in particular lovers of the blues, are in for a treat from East River Blues Band's latest compact disc release, "High Tide."


High Tide is the band's second recorded release and is comprised of only original material.


The band describes its music as a blend of "mostly blues with a little swing."


"It's a working class New York kind of thing," said guitar player Ken Hughes. "Itıs blues with a New York edge and a New York theme."


Lead singer Dan Cumberland describes the band's genre as being "kind of like a good session of scratching and biting sex. "


From the first swingy track, "Closing Time," with its hilarious lyrics "When my baby goes drinking she don't stop till closing time" or "My first born son has the bartender's eyes and he gets his milk for free" to the playful vibe of "Lovin' Girl" with Tom Brumley's harmonica ripping up that track, right down to "Fiona's Shuffle," "High Tide" is slamming.


Blue Midnight, an instrumental piece, is a haunting and soulful melody and Brumley lets the harmonica talk again on this groove.


"Ken has done fantastic arrangement on these songs," Cumberland said. ³When someone who loves the blues hears the harmonica they knows it's authentic."


"East River Rats," the band's biographical song, tells of them growing up in the working class neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens.


The Latin flavor of "Hasta La Vista," with its wild rhythm featuring Bill Acosta on bass, with Congo drums echoing and Cumberland belting "I can't find my money baby/What's going on?/ In a west side hotel room/All my clothes are gone," is somewhat of a crossover that the band still manages to give a bluesy type of feel.


"Fiona's Shuffle," the only other instrumental piece, was inspired by Hughes' daughter.


"My daughter is 5, and three, four years ago, when I'd still walk around holding her trying to get her to fall asleep, my wife's childhood friend came over and said what I was doing was the feeling of shuffle. I had that melody; it seems sweet, like Fiona has a little melody. It captures her mood sometimes," Hughes said.


"It's a combination of lyrics by me and music by Ken," said Cumberland.


In the past, the band has covered music by Muddy Waters, Louis Jordan, Willie Dixon and John Bartholomew.


East River Blues Band plays mostly in  Long Island, New Jersey and Manhattan, where the band held its CD release party.


"It was sponsored by the New York Jazz and Blues Society," said Hughes. We had about 100 people there. We played and kicked off our CD. We sold a bunch of CDs and tested the waters and the people really liked our original material. The acoustic stuff went over well. The important thing about this band is that we can show off things acoustically and electrically."


Cumberland and Hughes named 90.7 WFUV as their favorite radio station.


"They reach out to different types of listeners presenting different genres. They play old but also a lot of new," said Cumberland.


"I listen to that station for the music as well," added Hughes.


East River Blues Band has been together for about 10 years, according to Cumberland.


"Ken and I knew each other in high school so we go way back," he said. "I had a guitar and Dan had a drum. We used to sing harmonies back then and played for our local neighborhood and friends back then."


Hughes is a music teacher in Jackson Heights at PS 69, and Cumberland retired from the Department of Corrections last year.


Band members said they will arrange with the Jazz and Blues Society to organize a concert for the end of the summer.


"High Tide" can be purchased through or


Contact the East River Blues Band for booking at (516) 482-1098.



Queens Actor Shakes Asian Stereotype


From his days as a journeyman on popular television shows to his ever-growing experience on the big screen, actor and Jackson Heights native Parry Shen has been an unheralded piece of the entertainment industry, taking nothing for granted. He knows the perceptions that go along with being an Asian American actor. 


³The Asian male is seen as an asexual guy, he never kisses a girl, never gets the girl,² Shen said in an interview with the Queens Tribune. ³In real life, Asian guys are sort of seen as mamaıs boys. If you see an Asian guy on film, he might as well be a priest.²


After countless film roles playing what he called the typical best friend or someone who is technology savvy, the 33-year-old Shen grew tired of the parts he was getting because of his face, he said. He recognized that there is a very thin pool of Asian actors that does not make a living as martial arts stars. Through many of his repetitive roles he said he was basically on ³autopilot.²  


His acting motivation became replenished, however, when more challenging roles were presented to him in two upcoming films ­ the horror flick ³Hatchet,² in which he plays alongside horror veterans Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees) and Tony Todd (Candyman), and the sci-fi bash ³Gene Generation.² ³Hatchet,² which Shen called a ³throwback to 1980ıs slasher horror movies,² was a hit at this yearıs TriBeCa Film Festival and is currently seeking a distributor.  


Shenıs film credits include ³The New Guy,² ³First Daughter² and one of his more cherished projects, ³Better Luck Tomorrow.² Television show aficionados may also recognize him from parts he had on ³Chicago Hope,² ³King of Queens,² ³Buffy the Vampire Slayer² and ³Beverly Hills 90210.²


Some of Shenıs biggest contributions, however, may not necessarily come on the screen. Frequently traveling to different universities around the country, Shen speaks to students, primarily Asian students, about how he overcame his parentsı desire for him to become an accountant to pursue his acting dreams.


³I went away from the practical route,² he said. ³My hope is that my college visits open the possibilities for students. After a talk at Princeton, a lot of students started to ask me about how I got away from my parentsı expectations. Two months later, I heard that half of them changed their majors to arts-related majors.²


Now living in California, Shen splits his time between caring for his baby daughter and rehearsing for his different roles, a balance that he said is not always easy.


³When auditions come in, itıs sort of tough for me to switch gears,² he said. ³Before she was born, I could have all the time I wanted to rehearse. Now, itıs how long she sleeps is how long I have to practice. Sometimes, Iım so exhausted from taking care of her, I donıt even want to practice my audition. Iım trying to find a zone to work in to balance it out, itıs an interesting phase Iım going through right now.²


Before getting swept up into the acting game, Shen spent his adolescence in Jackson Heights. Though he isnıt Catholic, he attended St. Joan of Arc Elementary School and Archbishop Molloy High School. At Molloy, he said he appreciated learning from teachers that had work experience in the fields they were teaching, including former New York Times journalist and English teacher Charles McKenna and social studies teacher John DiOrio.   


In the near future, Shen said that he would like to try out his producing skills. Though his acting would likely have to take a back seat, he said he would rather participate on projects he enjoys than wait for opportunities to arise.  


Then again, this Queens native has never been one to wait around for opportunities.






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