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!


DISCO PHASES

Browsing through www.facebook.com today I came across a really cool article called "The Phases of Disco" on djalexgutierrez.com. It's all about how during the "disco craze" of the late 1970s and early 1980s, different artists from various countries and cultures around the world added their own local flavor to the disco sound, making it their own. There are lot's of really cool clips too, you should check it out:




Those who know me well know that I was born into the disco era and grew up listening to the funky disco sounds that were all around me. I love 1970s and early 1980s disco music and I am proud of it! I feel like this is pretty evident in the music that I make; you can really get a sense of the "disco flavor" in the B side track to my latest single called "Waiting For Me." I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Friday, February 20, 2015

NEW SINGLE and SHOW TOMORROW NIGHT!!!

As promised my new single is now ready for download from bandcamp.com! It's called "Beautiful Stranger" and it is a duet with my good friend Lydia Harrell (aka Lovely Singer.) Check it out:



The single also contains a "flip side" song called "Waiting For Me." Both tracks were recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered by a talented young engineer named Tim Phillips at his studio called Phillips Sound in Rowley, MA. Also featured on the recording is Pat Loomis on sax, Eric Vincent on guitar and my old buddy 'Cowboy' Ben Alman on the bass. Cowboy, Eric and I along with Zeke Martin will be throwing down some live funk at Toad tomorrow night, Saturday February 21st at 10 pm. It's been a little while since we've played out live as I've been really focused on writing and recording lately, but it's always a lot of fun to get out there and jam live with the band. We hope you will come and join us! 




I'd just like to take this opportunity to really thank everyone who helped me get these songs together; Lydia, Eric, Ben, Tim and Pat - you are all fantastic and I am truly privileged to be working with you all! I also really want to thank everyone who has shown their love and support for me and my music over the years. You all have made it possible for me to follow my dreams and do what I do, and I am so grateful! I really hope that you enjoy this music, and there is so much more that I have in store for you all - I am so excited and I can hardly wait to show you all what I have coming up next!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

NEW SHOWS ADDED and UPDATES

Happy New Year! The band and I are looking forward to playing lots of funky shows this year, and we hope you will be able to join us. I have just added a few new dates to the schedule, and more will be forthcoming soon. Take a look:






Check back here often and look at the "TOUR DATES" page for any and all updates on our live performances.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a new single will be released very soon, a duet with my friend Lydia Harrell (aka Lovely Singer) called "Beautiful Stranger" and my very first full length album won't be far behind. Lots of exciting stuff coming up soon, so please stay tuned!

Don't forget that you can still download my most recent single "Friday Night" for FREE on Band Camp. Check out the link right here:





Stay funky, y'all... Hope to see you soon!