Friday, December 12, 2014

"FRIDAY NIGHT" FREE DOWNLOAD!!!

Well it's been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. It's been almost seven years since I released my last single, and it's taken me nearly a year to work out the kinks on this latest single. If you've been to one of my shows in the last year you've likely heard me play the song "Friday Night," a catchy sing-along dance track with a smooth groove. It's been streaming on my web site for some time, and I've gotten lots of good responses from that.

Now the track has been remixed and mastered, thanks to a very talented young engineer named Tim Phillips who I am really excited to be working with, and the tune is finally available for download. Here is the best part: it's FREE!

I wanted to make this song available for free as a way of saying THANK YOU to all of the good people who have supported and encouraged me over the years. During this time of the year, the season of giving, what better way to show your appreciation for someone than with a gift of music?

Please click on the link below to download the song today from Bandcamp.com, and by all means please feel free to share the link with anyone whom you think might also enjoy the track. Here it is:





Another new single is not far behind; the duet I recorded with Lydia Harrell is in the final stages of mixing and will be available very soon. A full length album (my first solo album!) is set be released in the spring of 2015. I will be keeping you all updated on the progress of that right here at www.bigbenhillman.com!

I'd like to wish to you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season, and I hope that this song helps to make your Friday nights a little funkier! Download it today and crank it up tonight when you get out of work, hit up that happy hour or just chill at home with someone you care about. Take care of yourselves, and I'll see you all next FRIDAY DECEMBER 19th at TOAD in Cambridge, MA. Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A SHOUT OUT to JEREMY PARKER and his STEREO DIPOLE AMP

In my last blog post on November 29th I neglected to send my thanks to an old friend of mine who was at the show, a man named Jeremy Parker. I've known Jeremy since we were in college together back at U Mass Lowell (I won't say just how long ago it was exactly; we'll just say that the year started with a '19' and leave it at that.) Some of you probably know Jeremy as an organist, playing with the Boston Horns among countless others, including his own solo project (for which I have been told a new recording is in the works.) What you might not know is that Jeremy is also a rather brilliant audio and electrical engineer, who in his spare time builds some pretty spectacular contraptions.

The more astute listeners at the last show I did at Toad may have noticed I had a slightly different sound to my keyboards. That is because Jeremy had contacted me earlier in the week and asked me if I would be interested in trying out a new amplifier he had built. He told me he had built an amp which would help to simulate the stereo effect you used to be able to get out of the old suitacase Rhodes pianos, such as it was used by some of my favorite artists like Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and many others.

Picture of a Suitcase Fender Rhodes electric piano
When I asked Jeremy to describe his creation for me, he told me he calls it a Stereo Dipole Amp and that it's purpose is to take two stereo channels and project a 360 degree sound field. When we plugged my Yamaha P95 into the amp, by way of my effects rig (a phase shifter, stereo chorus, plus a stereo vibrato pedal that Jeremy provided) the similarity to the feel and sound of the stereo Suitcase Rhodes was really remarkable.

Here is a close up photo of Jeremy Parker's Stereo Dipole Amplifier.

It didn't have quite as much volume capacity (loudness) as the amp I typically use, which is a very basic but effective Peavy KB100, nor did it have the low end frequency that I am accustomed to using for my bass synth sounds. However I was very impressed by its overall tone as well as it's design. I think that this amp has the potential to be a very effective substitution for the very large and heavy Suitcase Rhodes, especially if it were to run through a larger sound system either by miking it or a direct line out. 

In any case I was very grateful to be one of the first people that Jeremy chose to try out this new amplifier, and I really had a lot of fun playing it. He said he was going to try and get a few more people to try it out, including some Hammond organ players as it could prove also to be a suitable stand in for a Leslie speaker as well. I will certainly be very curious to hear some other players use it as well as their feedback, and I really wish my friend Jeremy a lot of success with this really cool piece of gear!

Playing at Toad on November 14, 2014 and using the Stereo Dipole Amp.

In other news: if anyone in the Lowell area was planning to come see us play at The Back Page this coming Friday night, I am sorry to have to say that due to circumstances beyond my control I had to cancel that show. It's quite disappointing as it has really been quite a long time since we've been able to get back into this very cool space, and I can only hope that we will be able to reschedule as soon as possible!

In the meantime, if you want to check us out again you can come see us play at Toad in Porter Square, Cambridge on FRIDAY DECEMBER 19th. Hope to see you all there!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

THANKS, GRATITUDE and UPCOMING JAMS

I hope that everyone out there had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with the people they love and care about most. Just wanted to drop a quick recap of things gone by, update of things to come and a little bit of love and gratitude for some of the good people and things in my life. 

It was another successful and fun filled evening at TOAD a few weeks ago. I am so grateful to all of the good folks who come out to party down with us, I am very grateful to Billy Beard, the venue and the wonderful staff at TOAD for continuing to have us back and giving us so much great support!

Of course I am very thankful to the many great players that I get to make music with. For this past gig we had Eric Vincent on guitar, Erick Cifuentes on drums and Daniel McDowell on bass. These guys sound great together and are all really cool - I am happy to say that they will be playing with me on my next engagement at TOAD which will be on FRIDAY DECEMBER 19th!  

My sister Meredith came by the show, which was a really pleasant surprise as she lives a good two hours away from Boston. I was glad she could be there to share in the good times with us, and she even took a couple of decent photos. Here's one of them:

Big Ben and the crew at Toad on November 14, 2014. l-r: Eric Vincent on guitar, Daniel McDowell on bass, Big Ben on keys and vocals and Erick Cifuentes on drums.


I want to give props to my friend artist Carol Barenberg for her support. She came to the last gig and brought her video camera and took some cool footage. It's hard to get good lighting in there sometimes, but Carol's friend and video editor Mike has done a good job of restoring the footage so that its easier to see, and the sound is actually pretty good.

There is still a lot of footage to sort through and edit, but there has been one clip posted to YouTube already. It's a brief snippet of my piano solo at the end of my original tune called "Chemical Brothers." You can peep it out here:




As you can see, we have a good time over there at TOAD. If you haven't been yet, grab some friends and come on through! Again, we'll be back there on FRIDAY DECEMBER 19th. You can also catch the band up in Salem on DECEMBER 27th at BRODIE'S SEAPORT CAFE. Hope to see you all there!

Before I end this post, I have give shout outs to one more person who I am grateful for: my girlfriend Barbra DesLauriers. She has been a tireless supporter of me and my art both, and I don't know what I would do without her. Whether its coming out to a show to cheer me on, come pick me up in Boston at 2 am after my car gets towed (true story!) or just sit and listen to me ramble on about all my crazy ideas and dreams, she really is a special person and I am really glad she's in my life.

Be well and be blessed, everyone! Hope to see you all real soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DATES ADDED TO CALENDAR!!!

Last Friday the band and I had one of the best nights so far playing at Toad in Cambridge! The house was packed all night long and there was nary a moment when there weren't people grooving to the beat. It was a lot of fun and I am looking forward to coming back and performing again at Toad on Friday November 14th. Be sure to mark your calendars and come on down; it's always a blast over there and you really don't want to miss out!

I am hoping that by that time my new single I am working on, the duet with Lydia Harrell called "Beautiful Stranger" will be ready to go and there will be download cards on hand. Keep your eyes and ears open for more information about that.

We we were supposed to go back and perform at Brodie's Seaport Cafe in Salem in November as well, but due to a scheduling conflict we had to move the date to Saturday December 27th. I am hoping that even though this is just a couple of days after Christmas that people will still be in a festive enough mood to come on out and shake their groove thang at this funky little spot in the Witch City.

To recap: you can catch us November 14th at Toad in Porter Square Cambridge, December 12th at The Back Page in Lowell (another super fun venue!) and December 27th at Brodie's Seaport Cafe in Salem, MA. As always you can always check out where the band and I will be right here at www.bigbenhillman.com!


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

QUICK & DIRTY UPDATE

If you haven't figured it out by now, my band and I will no longer be affiliated with the jam session at The Safe. It's disappointing because I was looking forward to having a weekly residency at a local club, but upon further reflection I decided to give it up.

The main reason is that I am choosing to spend more of my time and energy right now on writing and recording. It's been a very busy and active summer, and the band and I have gotten to play some really cool shows. In the upcoming months we will still play, but not as often. So if you get a chance to come check us out live you should definitely jump on it, as it might be a while before you will be able to see us again.

I have been very fortunate to meet a really talented young engineer named Tim Phillips who has been helping me to record and mix the absolutely massive backlog of material I have composed over the last few years. It's hard to believe that it's nearly seven years since I put out something new; I think there was a time when I kind of fell off and had to find my voice again artistically. Now I am back and better than ever with a new sound and a fresh voice and I cannot wait to share my music with the world!

Not wanting to give too much away too soon, I will say that my next single release I have planned will be a duet with a very talented singer from the Boston area named Lydia Harrell. I have known Lydia for years, ever since the old Royal Family used to shows with her former band Hiptonic at places like the old Sky Bar in Somerville (gosh, do you remember that place?) However it is only very recently that Lydia and I have had the opportunity to actually work together on anything, having carved out a regular night at In A Pig's Eye in Salem, MA on the third Thursday of each month. Along with another old friend of mine and Royal Fam alum Yahuba Garcia, "LH3" as we are known throws down a funky mix or jazz, blues and random pop tunes.

Lydia Harrell and I at the studio.
Please keep your gaze focused here to bigbenhillman.com for updates on all my shows, recordings and releases - some very exciting stuff soon to come! As for the jam session at The Safe, I have been told that the torch has been passed down to some very talented young lions - you should go check them out and show your support if you get a chance.

You can check out my band at Toad in Porter Square Cambridge on Friday September 19th. Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Last night's JAM at THE SAFE

We were very pleased to see how many people came out on what may have been the RAINIEST night of the year to hang out and JAM OUT with us at THE SAFE in LOWELL, MA last night. Everyone really had a good time and there were definitely a few memorable musical moments.

Jam Session at The Safe in Lowell, MA on August 13, 2014 (photo by Barbra DesLauriers.)
I want to personally thank everyone who came out to show support, and I especially want to thank my friend D-TENSION for inviting us to perform at this really cool new venue.

As previously stated, there will be no jam session next week August 20th as old school HIP HOP legend KURTIS BLOW will be performing. We will resume the jam session on WEDNESDAY AUGUST 27th. Again I want to encourage all musicians to come on down and bring their instruments and help make this the HOTTEST JAM SESSION ever to hit the Bay State!

Before I go, one last reminder that you can check out the band THIS FRIDAY up in SALEM MA at BRODIE'S SEAPORT CAFE at 9 PM. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

FUNK PAINTING [BIG BEN REDUX]

So you all might remember back in March I made a blog post about a drawing that my friend Carol Barenberg was working on that was inspired by my tune "Friday Night." Carol likes to make time-lapsed videos that chronicle the creative process she goes through in making her artwork, often setting them to music.

Well she has posted another video, this time its for a painting she has created, and she chose to feature an "oldie" of mine from back in 2007 - the song "Look At Me" featuring my old buddy Meyer Statham.



Check it out, enjoy, leave a comment and pass it on to your friends.

Before I go, just a quick reminder that you can check out THE FUNK/JAZZ JAM SESSION tonight at THE SAFE in LOWELL MA, and you can also see us play at BRODIE'S SEAPORT CAFE in SALEM MA on FRIDAY the 15th. Stay FUNKY, people!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

JAM SESSION at THE SAFE in LOWELL

Hey all! Just a quick and dirty blog post to let you all know about something I'm very excited about: the band and I have ourselves a weekly residency at a new/old venue in Lowell called The Last Safe and Deposit.

Anyone who was involved in the Lowell music scene back in the late 1980s and early 90s will remember "The Safe" as it was called by loyal patrons as being a hot spot for live music. Local legendary hip hop artist and producer D-TENSION has worked hard to bring back The Safe, and he asked lil ol ME to host a weekly JAZZ/FUNK JAM SESSION on WEDNESDAY NIGHTS, beginning THIS WEDNESDAY AUGUST 13th at 8 PM.



For the first hour, my TRIO ("COWBOY" BEN ALMAN on BASS, and "SUPERFREAK" ZEKE MARTIN on DRUMS) will jam out and do our thing, then after that we will have musicians sign up and take to the stage with us to throw down on your favorite funkified jazz standards.

I would like to cordially invite each and every one of you to come down and hang with us, wether you want to bring your axe and sit in or just chill and check out the grooves. Either way its sure to be a funky good time for all!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

BIG BEN RETURNS to JOE SENT ME in WALTHAM

Well folks, summertime is here and along with it comes some super fun shows at some super fun venues!

I am very pleased to announce the band and I will be returning to JOE SENT ME in Waltham, MA this coming FRIDAY JUNE 6th at 9 PM. Last time we were there it was a whole lot of fun, and we really want to make this show extra special! We need you all to come out and show your love for the FUNK, so I hope to see you all there!

Live at The Back Page in Lowell with Big Ben on keys and lead vocals, Jodee Frawlee on guitar, Erick Cifuentes on drums and Vaughn Brathwaite on bass (photo by Ann Marie Hannisian)

Special guest with me this friday include my good friend JODEE FRAWLEE on guitar, and on drums will be a young man originally from Texas named Bryson - who is actually a really talented vocalist who just happens to be pretty nasty on the drum kit too.

 Other recent happenings: we had a couple of really great shows recently at THE BACK PAGE in Lowell as well as SONNY WALKER'S in Roxbury. Both of these gigs gave me the opportunity to work with a super funky bassist names Vaughn Brathwaite. Vaughn is originally from New York and spends most of his time playing gospel music as the music director of a church, but he sure can lay down some funk and soul when he wants to - and we're glad to welcome him into the family.

Big Ben live at Sonny Walkers in Roxbury with Zeke Martin on drums, Vaughn Brathwaite on bass and Eric Vincent on guitar (photo by Lydia Harrell)


 Stay tuned for lots more FUNKY shows and things happening this summer... We will be back at TOAD in Porter Square, Cambridge on June 13th, and once again you can catch us THIS FRIDAY JUNE 6th at JOE SENT ME in WALTHAM, MA.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

UPDATES for SPRING and SUMMER SHOWS

I've recently booked a whole bunch of dates for the band, and thought I would take a quick moment to share them with you here. 

We just recently played another fun show over at Toad in Porter Square, and as it happens that is the place where our next show is going down on Friday May 9th. We hope to continue appearing there at this Cambridge mainstay for good music on the 2nd Friday of each month; you can also catch us over there at Toad on Friday June 13th. 

BIG BEN and the band at TOAD on 11April2014. l-r: Ben Alman on bass, Noah Matlsberger on guitar, Zeke Martin on drums and Big Ben Hillman on keyboards and vocals.


On Friday May 16th starting at 9 PM we will finally be making our long-awaited return to The Back Page in Lowell. I'm thrilled to have a new bassist working with us that evening, a talented young man by the name of Vaughn Brathwaite. 

Wrapping up the month of May you can check us out in Roxbury at a special place known as Sonny Walker's (formerly the C&S Tavern.) It's always a very spirited event when we play there, and if you haven't caught a show there yet you really ought to come check it out. It's something not to be missed! 

We've had the good fortune to play a couple of shows now at both the Cambridge and Waltham locations of a venue called Joe Sent Me, and on Friday June 6th we will be returning to the Waltham location for another fun filled evening. 

It's been a while since I've been back to New York City, but on Friday June 27th the band and I will be making our triumphant return to the one and only Shrine World Music Venue in Harlem. This will be our 2nd time in the headlining slot over there, and we really hope that all of our extended New York friends and family will come to show their love! 

Lastly I want to mention a new spot for us altogether: a fabulous spot up in Salem, MA called Brodie's Seaport Cafe. We will be making our funky debut over there on the evening of Independence Day, Friday July 4th! We're hoping that this will be a really fun night and we really want to see all of you there. We will also be appearing there on Friday August 15th. 

Lots of great shows to choose from, we hope you'll come to all or as many as you can. Of course there will be many more shows to come, and you can always get the latest news and updates on all upcoming events right here at www.bigbenhillman.com! 
Check out the latest BIG BEN gigs here:

Sunday, March 30, 2014

BIG FUN at JOE SENT ME

This past Friday the band and I had a gig scheduled at Toad, one of our favorite spots to play at in Cambridge. We were all set to go that afternoon when my girlfriend Barbra got a call from one of her friends saying that there was another band listed on the website as being the headliners that night. Long story short, we had been double-booked by the agent and we were out of a gig.

Having been in this situation before, my mind quickly started running through my options. Then I remembered that just a couple of weeks ago we had played at a place in Waltham called Joe Sent Me, and that they also had a location in Cambridge not far from Porter Square. So Barbra and I took a ride down there, talked to the owners real quick - who are super cool by the way - and lo and behold we had a new gig!

Big Ben at Joe Sent Me Cambridge on March 28, 2014. l-r: Jeff Buckridge on guitar, 'Cowboy' Ben Alman on bass, Big Ben Hillman on keys and Zeke Martin on drums. 

It took a bit of organizing to get the band and all of our friends and fans to come out to a new location, but we managed to make it all come together and it ended up being a really great night. Of course I am grateful to the guys in the band who always throw down the funk, and I'm really grateful to all of the good people who came and hung out with us. It was really great to be able to meet some new folks and get some new sets of feet dancing to our beat - above all we really want to thank the good folks at Joe Sent Me for being so cool and letting us come in there and do our thing at the last minute! They treated us really well over there, and if you haven't been there yet you really ought to stop in and pay them a visit sometime soon.


We were really happy to have our buddy Jeff Buckridge on guitar with us, as this was the first time he really did a full night with my band. Jeff, who says that he has yet to play a gig at Toad in all his years of musicianship, I'm afraid will have to wait just a bit longer to end that streak - but hopefully not much longer!

The band is slated to be back at Toad on Friday April 11th. This time we're on the web site - so mark your calendars and come get down with us!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Art of FUNK


A little over a year ago I had the pleasure of meeting an artist based out of Boston named Carol Barenberg, an extraordinary painter whose colorful and vibrant work has been featured in galleries all over the world. Several months ago she told me she wanted to start working on a new piece based around the music I make with my band, as she had come to several of my performances in the area and apparently liked what she heard.

As I sat and posed for her in her studio with my keyboard in front of me, we listened to a copy of my soon to be released single Friday Night for a dose of funky-inspiration. It was quite interesting to see and feel the effect that one of my compositions could have on a visual artist.

Miss Barenberg often makes time-lapsed videos of herself while she is working and later sets them to music and posts them on YouTube. I was really happy that not only did she want to feature me in one of her paintings, but that she also wanted to feature my song in the video of her work on the initial study sketch. You can see and hear it in the video linked here:



The drawing is now finished and she has now begun doing the actual painting on canvas. I am already loving the way it is coming out and am very excited to see the finished product!

Check out some of Carol’s other videos on YouTube and visit her web site at www.barenberg.com to learn more about the work that she does. And as always keep checking in here at www.bigbenhillman.com for all of my funky updates!