Thursday, June 4, 2015

IT'S OFFICIAL!! NEW ALBUM drops SEPTEMBER 18th!!!

I'm happy to say that everything is on track with the album and I have every reason to believe that it will finally be completed this summer! In fact, I just yesterday confirmed that date for the release party: it will be on September 18th at Toad. Please mark your calendars and plan to be there, it's gonna be one hell of a good time!

Photo I took yesterday on June 3, 2015 in between vocal and horn recording sessions for the new album at Phillips Sound in Rowley, MA. The new album entitled The Friday Night Consortium will be out in September.

This project has been a long time coming, and I am so grateful to finally be at this point with it. I'm also really grateful to all of the talented folks who have come together to help me make this happen. There are about a dozen tracks on this semi-conceptual album, and I can't wait to share it with you all.

Of course you can still listen to and download the two preview singles on Bandcamp.com. Here are the links:

 




As usual I want to thank all of my friends and supporters out there for being so cool and sticking by me all these years. It's hard to believe that this is actually my first solo album; I've played on dozens of other folks records, it's about time I put out one of my own. Stay funky and have a great summer, everyone! See you all at the release party on FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 18th at TOAD!!!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Another AWESOME NIGHT at TOAD!!

Once again we had another really good show at Toad in Cambridge this past Friday night. In fact it may have been our most successful engagement over there yet. We had a really great crowd full of enthusiastic funk fans who came to get down, and get down they did!

Big Ben and the band rocking out and doing their thing at Toad on Friday May 15, 2015 (l-r: Eric Vincent on guitar, Frank Watkosky on upright electric bass and Big Ben on keyboards and vocals. Not pictured: Erick Cifuentes on drums.) Photo by Barbra DesLauriers.


This was the first time I had Frank Watkoski playing bass with me. Frank and I play together in a wedding band, along with Eric Vincent the guitarist who most often plays with me. A lot of people were pretty fascinated by the electric upright bass that Frank was playing (pictured above.) It's an unusual instrument to be sure, but it sounded funky as all get out and Frank  can really play the heck outa that thing!

Along with Frank and Eric we had a good friend on drums who plays with us every now and again, Erick Cifuentes. The rhythm section was tight and really laid down some heavy grooves!

Another first of the evening was the performance of a new tune of mine called "Let's Get Crazy." I gotta say that I think it went over with the audience pretty well. It's an upbeat dance number, and it really seemed to get people up on their feet. I am planning to make this song be the first song on my new album, coming out soon!

So as it happens, this was the last show we will play at Toad for a few months to come due to some scheduling issues. I am hoping that we will be able to get back in there for September, and by that time we will be celebrating the official release of the forthcoming album, which is entitled The Friday Night Consortium. Keep checking back here for details!



I will be doing a little trio gig in a couple of weeks on Sunday May 31st at a Cape Verdean restaurant in Boston called Restaurant Laura. They have really good Cape Verdean food there, and the atmosphere is really nice. If you have a chance, please come check us out.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

SHOWS, SHOWS, all types of SHOWS....

So we just came off a little run of some cool gigs around town. If you missed it, here is some of what went on...

At the end of March we played yet again over at Brodie's Seaport in Salem, MA. I really like this joint, and there are few places on earth that have a cool laid back party vibe like Salem. Things started off a little slow and easy that night, but before the evening was through we had everybody up on their feet and dancing - which is exactly what we aim to do at all times!
 

Big Ben chillin' outside Brodie's Seaport Cafe in Salem, MA.


If you live in the Salem are and you're thinking right now, "Damn, I missed Big Ben at Brodie's!" worry not: we'll be back there on July 24th and August 21st.

Fast forward to April the 17th, we had another successful engagement at Toad in Cambridge, one of our most favorite places to jam. We had a good crowd full of some old familiar friendly faces, and we made some new friends as well. We also had the one and only Wayne Jones sitting in with us on guitar (our usual guitarist Eric was away on a trip to Ireland.)

Our good friend Jean Marie stopped through to hang with us that night, and she took some awesome photos that really seemed to capture the mood of the event:

toad, funk, soul, live music, gig, Boston, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Big Ben
Big Ben and Zeke Martin funkin' it up at Toad on April 17, 2015 (photo by Jeanmarie Milona Martin)

Wayne Jones, Big Ben, funk, soul, live music, Toad, Boston, gig, groove, party, light up glasses
Our special guest for the evening, guitar virtuoso Wayne Jones (photo by Jeanmarie Milona Martin)

funk, soul, groove, jazz, smooth jazz, sexy, guitar, drums, live music, Boston, Massachusetts
Wayne Jones and Zeke Martin lay down the groove at Toad in Cambridge, MA on April 17, 2015 (photo by Jeanmarie Milona Martin.)

funk, soul, groove, singing, keyboards, afro
Big Ben singing some soul music at Toad in Cambridge, MA on April 17, 2015 (photo by Jeanmarie Milona Martin)

One week later we made our way up to my old stomping grounds of Lowell, MA to lay down the groove at The Back Page. I really love playing The Back Page, and they really seem to like us over there. Again, things got off to a bit of a slow start, but it wasn't long before we had some folks up out of their seats and getting down with us to the funky grooves.

saxophone, drums, bass, keyboards, vocals, funk, soul, groove, get down, Mill City, Christmas Lights, Brickwall, Jazz
Big Ben throwing down the funk at The Backpage in Lowell, MA. l-r: Chuck Langford on Sax, Zeke Martin on Drums, "Cowboy" Ben Alman on Bass, Big Ben Hillman on Keyboards and Vocals. (Photo by Robyn Alman)

We were honored to have yet another special guest sitting in with us that evening, Saxophonist Chuck Langford. Chuck and I go way back, and it's always a special treat to have come in and play with us.

As is the usual over there at Back Page on Friday nights, WCAP radio was in the house broadcasting the show live over the air. They even took the time to interview the fellas and I during our set break. At some point I might actually post a recording of the show and the interview (thanks to Jay Whiting from the "Night Scene" show for doing such a good job with the broadcast and for sending me the audio recording.) If I can actually make the time to sit and edit down the two very long audio files I will be sure to post it right here at www.bigbenhillman.com for you all to check out.

We'll be back up there at Backpage on Friday August 7th. Be sure to mark your calendars so you can check it out; even if you can't be there in person, you can always listen to us over the airwaves on AM 980 WCAP, or on their web site at http://980wcap.com/

Click here for the WCAP web site!
Just last night I played another groovy show over at Sonny Walker's in Roxbury. It had been quite a while since the last time we played over there, so it was really great to be back! We had a really warm reception from the folks over there, and of course the grooves were righteous - including an impromptu rendition of "Stand By Me" in memoriam to the recently departed soul legend Ben E King.

Eric Vincent on Guitar, Zeke Martin on Drums and Vaughn Brathwaite on Bass at Sonny Walkers in Boston on Friday May 1, 2015. (You can see my elbow in the corner!)
Sitting in with us on bass and vocals for the evening was Vaughn Brathwaite, a very talented individual who we are very fortunate to know and have come play with us. Also, fresh back from Ireland is guitarist Eric Vincent. He told us a story about how he was suspended upside down to kiss a blarney stone while he was over there - well, I don't know if he got the "gift of the gab" or not, but he sure did rip it up on that guitar all night long!

We'll be back at Sonny Walker's on July 31st and October 30th. Be sure to come on by and say hello  to Andrea Walker the owner. It's a great place full of friendly folks and there's always good music happening there.

So after all of that I know that you're just dying to know when you can catch the band next - right? We'll you're in luck, you will be able to see us very soon! We're playing on FRIDAY MAY 15th at TOAD. We hope to see you all there!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CLIFFORD COULTER, my latest New/Old DISCOVERY

As a young man in my late teens and early twenties I started to become a serious vinyl collector. I had always loved records and had already amassed a fairly substantial collection by the time I'd reached high school, but by college pretty much any spare change I had laying around was quickly spent at weekend flea markets and area pawn shops digging through the crates of dusty old albums and 45s.

Now I pretty much have been a funk-head since birth; I grew up listening to the sounds of Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, Marvin Gaye and just about anything else that was funky in the air in the late 70s and and 80s. One of the things that really amazed me once I started digging through those old record crates as a young man is that even though there were plenty of albums and artists that I'd heard before and maybe already had in my collection, there were still sooo many that I didn't know and I had never heard before; even though an album may have been 20 or 30 years old already it was still a new discovery for me.

Recently I made such a discovery, a funky singer-songwriter and keyboard player named Clifford Coulter. Initially I found his name while researching a song that I really liked by Sergio Mendes called "Life." This song is the closing track to the album Sergio Mendes and The New Brasil '77, the same album that boasts the Stevie Wonder composition "The Real Thing" (as heard on the famed compilation Wonder Wrote It.)


This funky little ditty with some rather philosophical lyrics was written by Coulter, and while looking to see what else I could find by this gentleman I came across an album that really blew my mind called The Better Part of Me.


If you have an opportunity to check this album out, do it! It's amazing! Smooth jazzy funk with early 1980s analog synthesizers, lots of bright sparkling Fender Rhodes, phat disco drums and slapping bass. For those who remember my old radio show Soul Power 91.5, this album definitely would have gotten lots of spins.

Listening to the tracks, there are many instances where it feels very reminiscent of the stuff that George Duke was doing at the time, including Coulters funky keyboard riffs and his clean falsetto vocals (by the late Duke's own admission, much of what he was releasing during this period was meant to sound like Earth Wind and Fire - not surprising considering EW&F were one of the most dominant musical acts between 1975 and 1982.) Still, there is something very unique and special about the tunes on this album. As a songwriter and producer myself, I can really appreciate this music from a compositional standpoint, and the production is impeccable.

There's not a ton of info out there in the interwebs about this man. Apparently he only released three albums, The Better Part of Me being the last of them. According to Wikipedia (which, yeah, I guess you can take anything you read there with a grain of salt) this album in particular was produced by none other than recent Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee Bill Withers. I personally have not as yet checked out his earlier offerings: 1970's East Side San Jose and 71's Do It Now!, both of which were released on the Impulse! jazz label. From what I've read these earlier albums had more of a blues influence. You can bet I'm going to try to track those albums down as soon as I can.

He does have a Facebook page, and from the looks of it he is still active and doing some performances out on the west coast. Check it out:


Well I may not be a kid anymore, but I am always so happy when I can still make a musical discovery like this one. May you all have many more funky new/old discoveries!


Monday, April 13, 2015

WHOA-OOA-OOA-OOOH!! BIG BEN on the RADIO!!!!

Just wanted to give a quick shout out to a couple of the funky-fresh DJs out there who are playing my latest tunes. The first I'd like to mention are actually some old friends of mine, who started playing my stuff back in the early 2000's with "It Must Have Been the Music." I am talking about the long-running funk and soul show called The Upper Room on WVOF 88.5 FM in Farifield, CT. Hosts Joe Kelley and Gi Dussault have been hosting this very cool program since 1982, and I am so thankful and appreciative of their support over the years.

If you live in the vicinity of Fairfield, CT you should definitely check out their program on Monday nights from 6 to 10pm. You can also listen to them on the web 24/7 at this link:


I'm happy to announce a new source of Big Ben funkiness on the airwaves: DJ Dan Toner of the Funky Fridays show on CUIT 89.5 FM in Toronto, ON. Dan has chosen to make my single "Friday Night" a part of his playlist, and I couldn't be more pleased! He debuted the single on his show this past Good Friday, and you can download the episode and listen to it here:


This radio campaign is just beginning, and I am hoping to add a lot more shows and DJs to this list of cats who are spinning my wax! If you are a DJ or radio programmer and you're interested in playing my stuff on your show or station, please reach out to me and I'll get you what you need right away. If you're a funk fan then you should listen to these programs and request some BIG BEN HILLMAN today!!!

Thanks for the support, y'all! :)

By the way, if you didn't get the reference of the title of this post, it's a shout-out to the late great Donna Summer and one of my favorite tunes of hers.... "On The Radio."


Friday, April 10, 2015

GIGS!!! [TOAD, BACK PAGE and MORE...]

I'm happy to announce that I've added a few new shows to the schedule, and we have a bunch of cool gigs coming up in the next few weeks.

Next FRIDAY APRIL 17th the band and I will be back at TOAD in Porter Square, Cambridge. We love playing here and it's always a good time. If you haven't been to a Toad gig yet you definitely need to come check it out. It gets pretty crowded in there, do you'd do best to get there early. The staff there is very friendly and it's a great place to sit and have a drink, listen to some music and maybe even get up and dance a bit.

The following FRIDAY APRIL 24th we are FINALLY making our return to THE BACK PAGE in LOWELL!! It has been a really long time since we've played here - almost a year - due to a series of unfortunate circumstances (snowstorms, schedule conflict, etc.) There has been a bit of talk about this place in the news lately, and people have said some rather regrettable things. Personally, I've had only good experiences there and I am really looking forward to playing there again.

Jamming out at THE BACK PAGE in LOWELL, MA.


I've been in this business for a long time, and for those who know me well, you know that I got my start and spent a lot of years in Lowell. I can tell you that the Lowell music scene (what's left of it) has desperately needed a place like The Back Page for a long time! It's a clean venue with a nice atmosphere, friendly servers, and they actually pay their musicians a reasonable rate (by today's club/bar standards) and as long as you're doing your job (that is playing music) you're treated with respect. What more can you ask for?

Then a week later on MAY 1st we will be making another triumphant return to a place we haven't played at in a while: SONNY WALKER'S in ROXBURY. Sonny's is a great place to just kick back, relax, have a beer and some good times. We hope you will join us!

Groovin' at SONNY WALKER'S in ROXBURY.

Later this spring and summer we'll be playing a bunch more shows for you, including some at TOAD and BRODIE'S SEAPORT CAFE in SALEM.

For all of our upcoming dates you can visit the "TOUR DATES" page right here at www.bigbenhillman.com. Be sure to check back often as we will be adding more shows soon - including a special RELEASE EVENT when my NEW ALBUM called The Friday Night Consortium is finished and ready to go! As always I humbly thank you for all your support, and I look forward to jamming out with you real soon!!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Another GREAT NIGHT at TOAD!!!

I just wanted to mention quickly what a great time we had at Toad in Cambridge last week! Despite it being very cold and snowy out, we had an excellent turnout - lot's of people crammed in there, danced the night away and some folks even stayed right up to the very end of the night.


It was unusual for us to be there on a Saturday night as we typically play there on Friday nights, so we found ourselves playing for some new faces and meeting some new folks. Any night of the week it's always a good time at Toad, and we're extremely grateful to the good folks over there for having us back so often!

You can catch us there again next month on Friday March 20th. Then for you north-shore folks you can see us at Brodie's Seaport Cafe in Salem, MA on the following Friday March 27th. I look forward to grooving with you real soon!