Friday, October 2, 2015

Release Parties and MORE

Our big release event two weeks ago at Toad in Cambridge was a big success! We had a great turnout, sold lots of CDs and tee shirts, and everyone seemed to have a really good time! I am very grateful to my girlfriend Barbra and my sister Meredith, as well as my parents and my friend Jodi for helping out at the merch table. I'm also really grateful to all of the great musicians who came down to lend their talent. Ben, Zeke and Eric were holding down the rhythm section as usual, plus Pat Loomis came down to blow some sax and singers Alex Jones and Lydia Harrell lent their vocal talents to the night. All in all it was a real blast, and of course I am grateful to Toad for allowing us to have it there.

Big Ben and the band getting down at Toad for the CD release party for The Friday Night Consortium on Friday September 18, 2015. l-r: Cowboy Ben Alman on bass, Eric Vincent on guitar, Zeke Martin on drums and Big Ben on keyboards and lead vocals

A week later we were off to New York City to do a release event at Club Groove NYC. It was good to be back there, as I hadn't played there in over a year. We had a good turn out there as well, made some new friends and had a really good time.

The New York release event on Friday September 25, 2015 at Club Groove NYC. l-r: Eric Vincent on guitar, Zeke Martin on drums, Big Ben on keyboards, Cowboy Ben Alman on bass.

I have been struggling to keep the CDs in stock as they have been moving very quickly! I am very pleased by all of the positive feedback I have been getting all around from folks about the new music. It is very encouraging indeed! If you haven't have a chance to check out the album yet, you can listen to clips and purchase CDs and downloads on CD Baby:

You can catch us playing at In A Pig's Eye in Salem, MA on October 15th, and Halloween weekend we will be having big fun at both Sonny Walker's and Toad. It's going to be an AWESOME OCTOBER!! Look forward to seeing you all out on the dance floor.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Well this is it, tomorrow is the release of my new album The Friday Night Consortium. We're having a big release party over at Toad in Cambridge at 10pm, and there will be CDs and t-shirts for sale. I hope that if you are in the greater Boston area and you are able to make it out to the show that you will come by, but more than anything I just really hope that all of you will pick up a copy of this album I've worked so hard on, that you will tell your friends about it, and that above all you will enjoy it!

Box of CDs just waiting to get bought up by loving funk fans!

I was just talking to some friends of mine about the process of creating this album, about how surreal it was to watch as these raw ideas and rough demos grew into completed works and seemed to take on a life of their own. Three years ago when I was making the transition from working in Philadelphia and New York to going overseas to China, and eventually finding my way back to Boston, I had no idea that the notes I had been scribbling on planes and in hotel rooms would turn into a new album. I thought at the time that I was just going to go back to the studio and work on the same stuff I had started on before I left, but fate has a way of leading us in surprising new directions we never knew existed - and now here we are.

I am truly very satisfied with how this record came out. I always knew I wanted to make an album like this, one that had something for everyone. All of you who love funky and soulful grooves should find something on this record for you. It's the type of album you can listen to from start to finish on repeat and still always find something fresh about it. I think it's the kind of record you could put on for any occasion, whether you're cruising around by yourself in the car, if you're having a party with some friends or a family barbecue, or even just a romantic evening at home with someone you love - this music is for you!

Some people are still somewhat perplexed by the name. What does The Friday Night Consortium really mean? Well, if you pick up a hard copy of the CD you will be able to read my explanation in the liner notes - but I will tell you here anyway: The Friday Night Consortium is the gang of us who all get together on a Friday night - musicians and music lovers alike - to relax, unwind and get down to the funky grooves that my band plays. That's what we do, and I wouldn't be able to do what I do and to make the music that I love if I didn't have you all to listen and to get down with me - so in a sense, this record really is dedicated to all of you!

The big CD release event will be happening tomorrow night, Friday September 18th at Toad in Cambridge, MA

Of course I will have links to purchase the album right here at You will be able to pick up a hard copy of the disc or a digital download from CD and you will be able to download it from iTunes as well. Eventually the album will be available to listen to on Spotify as well (funny, I didn't even realize until just last week that my I'm Sorry EP was already on Spotify!) As always I thank you for you for supporting me and for supporting local and independent music, and above all I am just really excited to share this music with you all and I sincerely hope that you will enjoy at as much as I loved making it!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you folks tomorrow night at Toad, 1912 Mass Ave in Cambridge, MA at 10pm. Peace! 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Before the SUMMER ENDS.

I've been a bad boy and haven't posted a blog since June - tisk, tisk! Sorry about that, y'all, but you know I have been hard at work in the studio getting my new album The Friday Night Consortium together. It's been a real challenge and a very intense learning experience these last few months as I've watched these dozen or so songs take shape from rough demos to final products, but I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished and I am really excited to share what we've created with all of you!

This is roughly what the album cover for The Friday Night Consortium will look like. The photo was taken by Caroline Alden at Toad in Cambridge, MA on Wednesday July 1, 2015.

In the midst of all this wonderful creativity going on, I still have to take on the very real task of promoting the release event and the album itself. Back in mid July I put out a little four-song EP called The Friday Night EP containing the pre-release singles from the album plus one more song and have started sending out to some DJs, radio stations and music reviewers in the hopes that they might latch on to what I'm doing and give me a little shine before the big day comes (which by the way if you don't know by now: the CD RELEASE PARTY is FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 18th at TOAD in CAMBRIDGE, MA.) If you or anyone you know works in radio or at a publication that reviews music, please by all means reach out to me and I'll get you what you need to see what my new project is all about.

As part of the promotional campaign, I have also put together a new EPK (that's an electronic press kit for those not hip to the business lingo.) You can check that out here:

I was quite fortunate to get a very talented photographer to take photos for the album art. Her name is Caroline Alden, and she has photographed pretty much everyone who is anyone in the Boston music scene. After a lot of deliberation of where we were going to do the shoot, in the end we just ended up doing it at a gig I had (a last minute gig, at that) over at Toad. It really couldn't have been more perfect, and the photos came out great. I will be posting some of the shots we did on a gallery here on my web site, and of course you can see some them when you buy my CD. If you want to check out more of what Caroline has done please visit her web site:

The summer is quickly coming to a close, but it ain't over yet! There's still time to get out and see us live. We've already done a couple hits this month at The Back Page and Sonny Walkers, but we've got another show coming up at Brodie's Seaport Cafe in Salem, MA on Friday August 21st. Hope to see you all there - and I most definitely will need your support and energy at the release party on Friday September 18th at Toad. Thank you as always for taking the time to check out what I do. Be blessed and stay funky!!

Thursday, June 4, 2015


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 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


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 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

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


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!