Katie’s Top 5 Concerts of 2012

By Katie Botelho

1. Roger Water’s The Wall @ Fenway Park in Boston, MA

I didn’t know what to expect with this show. I had heard so much about it so I knew it was going to be amazing. I just didn’t know how amazing it would be until I was actually there at Fenway Park, watching the wall being built. It wasn’t only a concert, but it was a big production that never left you bored. It also helped that it was legendary music played by brilliant musicians. The weather was perfect, the music was touching and the visuals were great to watch. Definitely one to never forget.

2. Linkin Park w/ Incubus @ Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA

This show was great. It was a spur of the moment type thing and even though our tickets were lawn seats it was still an amazing time. The music was so clear compared to other shows I’ve seen, I felt like I was listening to a CD rather than watching it live. I instantly caught myself liking the songs I’ve never heard before (which is rare, usually it takes me a few times of hearing to get into new music). The only downfall of this show was paying about $20 (exaggeration) on chicken fingers and fries at the venue.

3. Blue Man Group @ Hanover Theatre in Worcester, MA

I’ve seen Blue Man Group before but it’s always different each time you go. It’s something different and you get a little bit of everything. Music, comedy, dancing, you name it! It’s always a good time (as long as you don’t get picked from the audience).

4. Rush @ TD Garden in Boston, MA

This was a good show, I just wish they had played more songs I was familiar with. But they ended up playing “Tom Sawyer” and that’s all that mattered! We definitely got our moneys worth with this show because it was about three hours long! I believe I was deaf by the end of the night but it’s all good!

5. Iron Maiden w/ Alice Cooper @ ComcastCenter in Mansfield, MA

I was excited to go to this show but disappointed when Iron Maiden came on and we could barely hear him singing, just the music. I enjoyed watching Alice Cooper more, the music was clearer and the effects on stage were just awesome. Even though the concert itself was just ok, it was still a good experience to have.

 Please note that the shows booked through JKB Booking are not included on this list to keep everything objective.

Jay’s Top 5 Concerts of 2012

By Jay Kenney

1. Roger Waters The Wall @ Fenway Park in Boston, MA

This was my second time seeing Roger Water’s “The Wall” live and it was once again a visual and sonic masterpiece. What set this apart from his three night stint at TD Garden in 2010 was the atmosphere at Fenway Park. The historic ballpark was the perfect location to stage the massive “Wall” production and the weather was perfect. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

2. Primus 3D @ Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence, RI

Primus have been touring steadily the past three years and this was my fourth time seeing them in as many. While the show at the Orpheum Theatre in Boston the night before (which I also attended) was great, I thought the sound mix could have been better particularly with Claypool’s vocals. However, that was corrected at this show and this was nothing short of brilliant. The set list was great (with the band playing an almost completely different one than the night before), the music was tight and the visuals were mind bending. If you’ve never seen this band live, check them out. They’re a blast!

3. Rush @ TD Garden in Boston, MA

When Rush tours, they always make my top five list. The question is where will they appear on it. On their “Time Machine” tour of 2010, they topped my concert list because the set contained all of their classic songs, including the classic “Moving Pictures” album in its entirety,” with a few new ones in the mix. This time the first half included a lot of rarely played 80s material, while the second half was primarily made up of songs from their stellar new album “Clockwork Angels.” Although they ignored some of their staples like “Limelight” and “Freewill,” the show still rocked from start to finish.

4. Boston @ MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Ledyard, CT

While some would argue that this version of the band is not really Boston since Brad Delp’s passing in 2007, this concert was still enjoyable from start to finish. For the 105 minute set, the band played all the hits and some overlooked tracks from the underrated “Walk On” album that allowed founding member Tom Scholz to showcase his wizardry on the guitar and organ. Most impressive was the front-of-house sound that was simply crystalline, making it the best sounding concert I attended this year.

5. (tie) Dream Theater with The Crimson ProjeKCt @ Bank of America Pavilion in Boston, MA

Another band that always makes my top five list is Dream Theater. While this was my second time seeing the “A Dramatic Turn of Events” tour, the addition of The Crimson ProjeKCt really made this show special. Seeing the Adrian Belew Power Trio combined with The Stick Men all on stage at once playing King Crimson classics was simply amazing. Dream Theater followed with another incredible performance which is why I see them every time they tour the area.

5. (tie) Aimee Mann @ Berklee Performance Arts Center in Boston, MA

This was very hard to exclude from my top five list so I’m including it as a tie with Dream Theater. This was my first time seeing Aimee Mann in concert and she didn’t disappoint. Her new album “Charmer” is the best of her solo career and I was grateful that she played several tracks off that album. Her stories in between songs were humorous and she exemplifies cool. Overall, it was a great show and fun night out!

Please note that the shows booked through JKB Booking are not included on this list to keep everything objective.

limelight magazine’s Top 20 albums of 2012

#1 Testament – Dark Roots of Earth (Nuclear Blast)

When their last studio album (The Formation of Damnation) came out, I didn’t think the band could release anything finer. Well, they topped themselves once again, creating a metal masterpiece that sounds fresh and modern thanks to its outstanding production. This is classic Testament all the way!!!

#2 Rush – Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner)

Rush has been my favorite band since middle school and they never disappoint. However, this album is their best since Counterparts. It opened at #2 on the Billboard charts and their tour in support of it has been a complete success. For a band that’s been around for 38 years, they show no signs of slowing down!

#3 Asia – XXX (Frontiers)

The band’s third studio album since reuniting in 2006 is their best album since their debut. Every song is incredibly catchy, with the band sounding energetic and fresh. This is a must have for any Asia fan!

#4 Black Country Communion – Afterglow (J&R Records)

This was the first album I heard by this band and was completely blown away. Every track is outstanding with a sound reminiscent of the great rock albums of the 70s. Kudos to Glenn Hughes, Joe Bonamassa, Derek Sherinian, and Jason Bonham for creating this gem!!!

#5 Aimee Mann – Charmer (SuperEgo)

Lyrically and musically this is Mann’s best solo outing of her career, with all of the songs having a 70s and 80s pop vibe. To put it simply, she hit it out of the ballpark with this one.

#6 3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal (Century Media)

With soaring vocals, blistering guitars and a vintage heavy metal sound, this album definitely lives up to its name. It’s also the best record of this band’s career!

#7 Three Days Grace – Transit of Venus (RCA)

Three Days Grace’s “Transit of Venus.” The Canadian rock band’s sound has evolved over the years and has culminated with this release. For those who were disappointed by their last release, you shouldn’t be with this one.

#8 Accept – Stalingrad(Nuclear Blast)

This album harnesses everything that fans have grown to love about Accept: thunderous riffs, blinding guitar leads, aggressive vocals and infectious metal songs. This band is keeping heavy metal music alive in 2012!

#9 Steve Harris – British Lion (UMe)

The Iron Maiden bassist’s first solo album is a complete departure from Maiden and most critics have trashed it. But, that’s only because they were expecting it to sound like Maiden. A few production issues aside, this is a solid rock album with catchy tunes that pays homage to bands such as UFO, Thin Lizzy and even Sweet.

#10 OSI – Make Fire Thunder (Metal Blade)

The band’s fourth studio album features Kevin Moore (ex-Dream Theater), Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) and Gavin Harrison (Porcupine Tree). The album is focused and the musicianship is stellar. With this release, OSI continue to be one of the most innovative groups in the progressive metal scene.

#11 Flyleaf – New Horizons (A&M)

The final album with vocalist Lacey Sturm is different from their last two studio albums but it still has their signature sound. The songs are more melodic yet the band still displays passion, energy and raw emotion. Overall, it’s an impressive swan song for Lacey who will be sorely missed as the band carries on with a new singer.

#12 The Flower Kings – Banks of Eden (Inside Out)

Returning after a five year hiatus, The Flower Kings have recharged their creative juices with another epic release that contains enough dreamy, melodic and psychedelic elements to please their loyal fan base and more.

#13 Soundgarden – King Animal (Universal Republic)

The band’s first studio album in 16 years is remarkably solid, picking up right where they left off with Down On The Upside. The classic elements are all there musically and lyrically with a few new twists thrown in.

#14 Threshold – March of Progress (Nuclear Blast)

With great melody and elements of Yes and Asia throughout, this Threshold release is a completely solid album from start to finish.

#15 UFO – Seven Deadly (Steamhammer U.S.)

The veteran British hard rock band continue to sound fresh while never straying from their signature sound. With several tracks standing up among the best the band has recorded, UFO is still flying high!

#16 Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope)

While it’s disappointing that Michael Anthony is still not in the band, it’s great that Dave and Eddie are collaborating again. This may not be their best work but it exceeded any expectations we had.

#17 Ian Anderson – Thick As A Brick 2 (Capitol)

Anderson’s solo albums are generally hit or miss but this sequel to one of Tull’s landmark albums is actually pretty good. Sure, there is no Martin Barre so it’s not Jethro Tull, but this is still a worthy follow up to the original that was released 40 year ago.

#18 Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill (Reprise)

It’s always special when Young collaborates with Crazy Horse and this double album proudly stands among their best. If you like great guitar solos and jams, this is the album for you!

#19 Geoff Tate – Kings & Thieves (Inside Out)

The former Queensryche vocalist promised a more rock orientated album than his first solo outing and he delivered the goods. While we much rather see him fronting Queensryche, this is an improvement over their last studio album Dedicated to Chaos.

#20 Lionel Richie – Tuskegee (Mercury Nashville)

This had disaster written all over it but the finished product actually works, making his classic pop hits sound fresh! It’s also one of the biggest selling albums of 2012!

Former LIVE vocalist Ed Kowalczyk stills tempts fans with music

Photo - Ed Kowalczyk
Ed Kowalczyk

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Ed Kowalczyk, former lead singer and songwriting force behind the multi-platinum, rock band LIVE, has a new EP out called, “The Garden,” which features five new songs and five remixes, including a cover of the classic John Lennon song “Mind Games.” While the EP was digitally released last month, he plans to put out a full-length album in early 2013.

He’s been playing new songs on his “I Alone Acoustic Tour,” at intimate venues across the country, with a special performance at the Narrows Center for the Arts in Fall River on Saturday, March 2.

“I’m having the time of my life doing this,” said Kowalczyk. “My lyrics are very personal and people have such a personal connection to it that when the music gets stripped down and the environment gets really intimate, it enables an experience that you can’t duplicate in a bigger room. The main thing to expect is a personal and direct connect with my craft and my lyrics.”

But make no mistake about it: Kowalczyk said he still loves doing full-band shows. The acoustic gigs have helped him write a new chapter in his music career.

“I’ve fallen in love with it,” he said. “It’s not an acoustic show where all the hard songs are prettied up. It stays really intense. When you do a great version of a song, it’s almost that much more gratifying because you’ve done it without the normal tools and you feel that much more accomplished. I’m really having a fun time doing it.”

Kowalczyk also had a great time writing and recording the EP, laying down tracks in early spring. He said it’s much more produced than his albums of the past, and credits producer Jamie Candiloro, who has worked with artists such as R.E.M., for helping him arrange music to lyrics he previously wrote.

“He’s not only an amazing producer and engineer, but also a really, really great musician,” Kowalczyk said. “He’s one of those guys that can bang on a trash can and make it sound amazing. He’s incredible on drums, keyboards, [and] guitars. I play guitar and keys, as well, so we basically hunkered down like two mad scientists with these songs I had written.”

Two of Kowalczyk’s friends, both guitarists, also performed on the EP. Candiloro played all drum parts.

“It was a team effort, but the captain of the ship was Jamie and his vision,” he said. “It’s a product of Jamie’s genius for being able to arrange the music around the vocals. He’s just an amazing talent.”

As he has stated in other interviews, Kowalczyk said the process for this album was different from the one he used on his first solo album, “Alive”, and from any of his albums with LIVE. While his method was similar to methods of the past, as he typically crafts most music with an acoustic guitar, the difference was, again, in the production approach.

“Lyrically, melodically, and what you end up getting emotionally, in terms of the dynamic, is very much like what I’ve always done. I think it’s more developed and more of a sophisticated approach in terms of production.”

Kowalczyk’s fans have had a positive reaction to the EP, and have embraced it wholeheartedly. On social media sites, some have called it his best work.

“I love them,” he said of his fans. “One thing that has been good about social media is that interaction with them. Being able to have music available for them immediately is really exciting and part of why I did the EP. I didn’t want them to have to wait until I finished a whole album. I’ve had some of the best concert experiences of my life in the last year doing acoustic tours and reconnecting with them, not only with old material, but with the new stuff.”

The compliments he’s received, he said, have been “unbelievable.”

“A girl the other day said that all the other music she buys is just marking time between my releases,” said Kowalczyk. “I didn’t even know what to say to that. It really does feel great.”

A common thread to his lyrics will always be a personal touch. He said he’s always taken a “heart on sleeve” approach.

“This record is no different,” Kowalczyk said. “They’re intimate songs about transformation, moving onto the deeper dimensions of my soul. They’re personal, but they are also universal, and that’s what’s really exciting about putting this out. People from all over the world react to it as if we’ve known each other our entire lives, and that’s always to me a sign that you are on the right track.”

He’s also on the right track in life, as he knows how to balance being a musician with fatherhood. The oldest is 10, the middle child is 8, and the youngest is 18-months, and they love that their daddy plays music. The eldest two have seen him perform at shows.

“I live on the east coast now, so I’m hoping they can come to a bunch more,” he said. “They are super supportive. They are really engaged, and love music of all kinds. They are music fanatics. I don’t know where they get that,” he joked.

Tickets to his show at the Narrows can be purchased online at www.narrowscenter.org or by calling the box office at 508-324-1926. For those wanting to purchase tickets in person, box office hours are Wednesday through Saturday, 12 noon to 5 p.m.

TJ’s All-Star Band set to rock the Narrows

Todd Salpietro, Owner of TJ’s Music in Fall River

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

FALL RIVER – “This is a large scale show for such a young group, and I hope people will come out to see them,” Todd Salpietro said of TJ’s Music Concert Night, set for Dec. 6th beginning at 7 p.m. at the Narrows Center for the Arts located at 16 Anawan Street in Fall River, Mass.

The show will feature TJ’s All-Star Band, which is comprised of at least 35 children ranging in age from 10 to 19 who take music lessons at TJ’s Music. The students have been divided into groups and will be performing a few songs apiece.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, look at the kids. They are cute.’ No – they are rocking,” Salpietro said. “These kids are good.”

Salpietro is the owner and operator of TJ’s Music, a music shop at 347 South Main Street in Fall River that opened in 1997. He used to play drums for Trendkill, an international acclaimed tribute to Pantera, and offers music lessons, as well as sells instruments and music gear, to musicians and aspiring artists alike. These days, he devotes his time to TJ’s. Currently, about a dozen staff members teach more than 300 students a week.

To help their youngest students develop skills that allow them to succeed as members of bands, Salpietro created “Jam Night,” a music program at his shop about three years ago. Every Tuesday evening, students of all ages visited the store and played together, along with their teachers.

During lessons, students learned the basic fundamentals about their instruments. But at “Jam Night,” they got a flavor of what it’s like to perform with a full band.

“I used to watch them and they’d take their half hour lesson and go home,” he said. “I’m like, ‘They’re not in bands; they don’t play with anybody and these kids are great players.’ So, I said, ‘We’ve got to get these kids in, put them together in groups, and see what we can make happen.”

Using a 25-foot stage that’s located on the second floor of the shop, as well as a full PA system and light set, the children got the opportunity to get a feel for what it’s like to perform as a band. After a few months, Salpietro said the students got the hang of it and were performing comfortably with other musicians. Some of them even formed bands together aside of “Jam Night.”

“Getting them together to play gave them a goal,” said Salpietro.

To further give the children a chance to shine, Salpietro chatted with Patrick Norton, the Executive Director of the Narrows, as Norton recently stopped by the store. He once took music lessons there, along with his children.

“He came in one day and started talking about the kids and said, ‘Would you maybe want to do a show at the Narrows?’” Salpietro said.

For Salpietro, agreeing to the gig was a no-brainer.

“It’s the greatest venue locally,” he said. “The kids are going to play on a real stage, with real lights. They are all going to leave with band photos and action shots of themselves playing.”

In no time, Salpietro and his staff began prepping the children for the show. Students signed up for a 12-week program that started in September, and visited the store every Sunday afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m. to practice as groups.

“This program really works out a lot of bugs for kids,” he said. “If you’re learning how to play with a bass player and you’re a drummer, you know what to listen for. You watch the singer and see the singer’s cues.”

Not only does the experience teach them how to further develop musical skills, the children have made close friends and are learning the importance of teambuilding. Additionally, it helps them build confidence.

“I’ve had kids that were lacking stage confidence, as well as confidence in life, and we were able to get them to play together,” Salpietro said. “They are not scared to get on stage anymore. They get up there and are running the entire show. It’s amazing. It’s been a huge hit. They are working together. I see them talking things out, and that to me is just magic. I love seeing these kids grow.”

Since he created the program, participating students were invited to play on WSAR, a radio station in Massachusetts. They played live in the studio twice, and performed during Fall River Mayor William Flanagan’s slot, per Flanagan’s request. From there, Flanagan invited them to perform at the third annual 2012 ‘Eat 2 the Beat Festival,’ a summer showcase which consisted of New England tribute acts such as Dirty Deeds, Klassik Kiss, Scarab, and more.

“The kids did a great job,” said Salpietro. “They were unbelievable. They got a lot of recognition.” The students also appeared on Fall River Community T.V., and are set to take part in the Fall River Christmas Parade on Dec. 1.

Salpietro said the children are excited about the parade, as well as the Narrows show. To purchase tickets, which are $10 each, visit http://www.narrowscenter.org.

“The tickets are selling like wildfire,” said Salpietro, noting that he’s looking forward to the Narrows gig, too, and is hoping it is the first of many shows like it. “I do this because I think it’s something that they need. I enjoy introducing them to the other side of it. I have tons of experience playing and touring, and it’s a great way for me to share that side of my professional life.”

Learn more about TJ’s Music, as well as the program, at http://www.tjsmusic.com or call 508-673-9100.

Film festival creates quite a buzz

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

The first annual Buzzards Bay Film Festival, set to debut Nov. 9th and run through Nov. 11th in Falmouth and New Bedford, Mass., is a tribute to the Bay itself, its watershed, as well as the 360,000 people who live in surrounding cities and towns. The Bay is a 233-square mile estuary in Southeastern Mass. between the mainland shore, western Cape Cod, and the Elizabeth Islands.

“It’s going to be really fun and unique,” said Festival Director Tom Gidwitz. “It’s hard to bring all these different communities together, so this is a way to become more of a unit. We share the same stories in many ways.”

The event is part of the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s 25th Anniversary celebration and offers viewers science fiction, documentaries, animation, and the long-anticipated local premiere of the feature film Fairhaven. One-hundred percent of the proceeds will be dedicated to the Coalition, a membership-supported, non-profit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection, sustainable use and enjoyment of the Bay and its watershed.

The Festival will kick off Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, which is located at 68 Main Street in Falmouth, and continue at New Bedford’s Gallery X at169 William Street at 8 PM, Saturday, Nov. 10th.

“They show edgier stuff there and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Gidwitz said of Gallery X.

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center at 684 Purchase Street in New Bedford will host a day of films Sunday, Nov. 11th beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1968 science fiction classic, The Green Slime, and continue with an afternoon of other works. The day will wrap up with Fairhaven at 8 p.m.

“The Zeiterion is a big, beautiful theater and it’s a great place to show features,” Gidwitz said.

According to a press release, Fairhaven tells the story of three thirty-something friends who reunite in their hometown, a homecoming that forces them to reassess their friendship, as well as themselves. It stars Chris Messina of Vicky Christina Barcelona and Six Feet Under; Rich Sommer of Mad Men; Sarah Paulson of Mud and Deadwood; as well as the film’s writer and director Tom O’Brien, who grew up in Medford, but spent much of his time in Fairhaven, as his mother lived there for nearly a decade.

“That’s what inspired the screenplay,” O’Brien said in an e-mail interview. “I feel really great about bringing the film back to what inspired it. It completes the circle of the entire process for us.”
O’Brien plays Jon, a former high school football star and one-time college athlete, who feels dissatisfied with life and ends up back in Fairhaven, where he reunites with two old friends. It isn’t long before “old dreams and simmering resentments” come to the surface.

The film also stars a number of area residents.

“The production was made possible by the people of Fairhaven and the surrounding towns opening their homes and businesses to shoot in and volunteering to do everything from make lunch to be extras in the movie,” said O’Brien.

O’Brien went on to say that it felt much like a “grass roots community project” and that he is pleased that people have responded “warmly” to the film.  He noted that many of the locals told him they feel as if the film does justice to the area.

“There’s that saying that if you can touch one person in the audience you’ve done your job and I’ve had so many people reach out to say nice things,” O’Brien said. “A local Fairhaven guy came up to me after the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and said that his father had helped build the hurricane barrier and, as soon as he saw it in the opening shot, it brought tears to his eyes. I loved the entire process of directing the film, but knowing that it affected people emotionally is all I could ever ask for as a filmmaker.”

Aside from Fairhaven, the Festival will feature The Green Slime, a 1968 sci-fi classic, screened as a tribute to Robert Dunham, an American Korean War veteran who starred in Japanese monster movies and returned to the United States in 1975, residing in Cape Cod.

While his part in the film is small, he can be seen battling invading space aliens, which Gidwitz said, “look remarkably like the rusty tide algae that has been clouding Buzzards Bay waters for several summers.”

“We call it rusty tide,” said Gidwitz. “The Green Slime is fun because it’s over the top. It has all these special effects, [plus] it’s very campy and hilarious. The monsters are these green things with tentacles that they wave about.”

Further, the release notes that other films include Into the Gyre, an award-winning look at Falmouth Sea Education Association scientists as they study plastic pollution in the North Atlantic; Patrimony, an intense drama about family and loss, starring television star Robert Vaughan; and a selection of cell phone videos submitted to the Festival in a weekly contest held throughout the summer.

“That was fantastic,” Gidwitz said. “We’ve got sailboats, powerboats – a guy riding his bicycle off a diving board into the water, people doing back flips off the dock in Fairhaven – just peoples’ impressions of the summer. It’s was nice to see how much energy people put into them.”

Tickets for all screenings are available online at buzzardsbayfilmfestival.org. Tickets for Sunday’s films, including Fairhaven and The Green Slime, are also available at the Zeiterion Box Office, in person or by phone at 508-994-2900, or online at http://www.zeiterion.org.

Ayla Brown paves her own path to success

Ayla Brown

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

From singing and writing music, placing among the Top 16 on season five of American Idol, serving as a correspondent for The Early Show on CBS, to being a former hotshot basketball player, Ayla Brown seems to excel at everything.

This summer, Brown also did a bit of acting, as she took part in the movie, Cowboy Spirit, playing the role of Molly. The full-length film premieres Nov. 29th at the Orpheum Theatre in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

In the past, she finished high school as one of the top female basketball players in Massachusetts’ history, scoring 2,358 career points before playing for Boston College. She even found a way to combine singing and basketball, as last season she was asked to perform the National Anthem for the Philadelphia 76ers at every home game.

“It was such an honor, so I said yes,” said Brown, who will again take on the duty this season. “They also wanted me to set up a merchandise table and sell CDs.”
The problem, she said, was she was yet to record an album at that point. But that didn’t stop her. As a result, she ended up forming her own record label, Ambient Entertainment, for which she’s released the self-titled Ayla Brown in January.

“I kind of used it as a kick jump and motivator to put out an album – I didn’t want to have to wait for any sort of big guns to get involved,” Brown said. “It’s super easy to start your own label and that’s exactly what I did to make sure that I had content available at every game.”

Brown is grateful for the experience. Founding her own label, she said, has given her more freedom and flexibility as an artist.

“I’m really, really lucky to have put together a CD on my own label because creatively I get to choose all the songs,” she said. “I’m doing everything a major or a larger independent record would do. The only difference is that person is me, not someone else.”

As was mentioned earlier, Brown, who splits her time living in Massachusetts, Philadelphia, PA, and Nashville, TN, released her most recent CD, a self-titled album, through the label. It was recorded in Nashville at the studio of legendary country star, Ronnie Milsap. She hired Jeff King, who has played with country sensation Reba McEntire, to help with the recording process.

“I asked him if he wanted to band lead my session and surprisingly he was excited about it, which made me excited,” Brown said. “He is just absolutely incredible and one of the best session guys in town. And the players on the album have played with Kelly Clarkson, Sara Evens, [and] Jason Aldean. It’s not everyday that you get the best of the best.”

Adding to her long list of accomplishments is the fact that she co-wrote seven out of the nine tracks on the disc, as well as produced the album. She had an engineer handle the technical side of the process.

“As the producer, you’re in the studio with them the whole time and you tell them, ‘Hey, can you redo that solo? Can you make it sound more like this instead of that?’” Brown said. “It was great.”

The album is currently charting on Billboard in the Northeast, which pleases her to no end.

“I got an email from Billboard a few months ago saying, ‘Urgent: Ayla Brown is charting,’” she said. “I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. The hard work is paying off.’”

Her next effort will be a patriotic album, Heroes and Hometowns, set to be mastered later this month. She said her goal is to release it by Veteran’s Day, but if not, it will be available in time for holiday shopping.

Part of the proceeds of each CD sale will be donated to Hugs for Heroes, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting military troops overseas through shipments of care packages. Since it was established in 2004, more than 10 tons of goods have been delivered.

“A friend of mine started [it] in 2004 after someone came to her school and talked about how not many soldiers get care packages from the people they love,” said Brown. “Two out of the 10 guys would be getting care packages and the rest of the guys felt really left out. She thought that was a shame. Every person in the unit should get a care package.”

Another non-profit organization Brown is affiliated with is the Songs of Love Foundation, which is dedicated to providing free, personalized songs for children and teens facing tough medical, physical or emotional challenges. She serves as spokesperson and has written 10 songs for the effort.

“I was on The Early Show as a national correspondent for a two years and it was the first story that I pitched,” she said. “The producer I was working with at the time had written many songs for the organization and he told me about it. It was the beginning of a great relationship with Songs of Love. It’s so rewarding. It helps them get through whatever treatment and tough times they are going through.”

Helping children is something she holds close to her heart. While she doesn’t play basketball as much as she used to, coaching kids in the future would be ideal.

“If I were to ever coach I would love it to be for a middle school or an elementary school where it’s still fun and you get to teach the kids and have a good time doing it,” said Brown. “At the college, and even high school level, there’s too much pressure to excel and succeed.”

So, where does Brown find her inspiration to succeed? Her parents are former WCVB-TV Channel 5 reporter Gail Huff and Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.

“They’ve been so supportive,” she said.

In turn, she also supports them, as her father, a Republican, is facing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren in Tuesday’s election. During his campaign, Brown has performed at many of his functions and participated in several events.

“I do everything I can to support him and that means going out and holding signs, doing different video messages on YouTube and being in commercials,” she said. “My dad is not only a great father, but he’s a wonderful senator. He’s doing such a great job for Massachusetts. There’s no one else as bipartisan as he is. I want someone like that as my senator. There are a lot of people who complain about the way this country is run and then they don’t even vote. I would say to those people, ‘Get out there and make a difference.’”

To learn more about Ayla Brown visit aylabrown.com.

PUBLISHER’S NOTE: JKB Management & Booking/Limelight Magazine does not endorse political candidates, platforms, or parties. However, we support ALL local musicians from New England regardless of their political affiliation or involvement.

Botti grabs his dreams by the horns

Chris Botti

BY JESSICA A. BOTELHO

After recently wrapping up a six-week tour with legendary entertainer Barbara Streisand, Grammy-nominated trumpeter Chris Botti, the world’s best selling jazz instrumentalist, will be taking the stage at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center this Sunday, Nov. 4th.

For Botti, performing in the area is exciting. In 2009, he recorded a DVD, “Live in Boston,” which he thinks helped him generate New England fans.

“It’s become one of the most successful parts of my touring world, so we love coming up there,” he said. “That upper part of the United States is a really good market for me, so we visit there quite often.”

The set will include singer Lisa Fischer, who has been gigging with The Rolling Stones for the last two decades. Not only will the show incorporate jazz to the mix, it will feature other genres, as well.

“If anything has defined my touring in the last three or four years it is the ability to go from a really traditional jazz piece, to a more orchestral piece, to a classical piece, to an R&B song and do it with real authority,” said Botti. “We have incredible musicians in the band and hopefully people will walk away from the show entertained and musically lifted, but also seeing something that they can’t see around the block from some other band.”

Botti plans to perform songs from his latest album, “Impressions,” which features an all-star list of artists, including Andrea Bocelli, Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, David Foster, Caroline Campbell and Mark Knopfler.

Having Knopfler, best known as the singer and guitarist of the rock band Dire Straits, appear on the album was a pleasant surprise, said Botti. Knopfler agreed to sing, “What a Wonderful World” for the album. He rarely sings songs written by other writers.

“I was quite shocked,” Botti said. “That collaboration was sort of put together out of a fluke.”
Botti explained that his manager is a good friend of Knopfler, and as the two were taking a stroll in London’s Hyde Park one day, Knopfler suggested that Botti remake the classic tune.

“It was kind of his idea,” said Botti. “I probably would never have tried to enter into that Louie Armstrong territory of music had it not been for Mark. We went back to him and said, ‘Are you serious?’”

Knopfler was serious, and ended up teaming up with Botti to record the song. Botti said Knofpler’s unique voice makes the track work as well as it does.

“He almost speaks the song as much as he sings it,” said Botti. “And it was done all in one take. In the day and age of people having computers, multiple takes, Auto-Tune and this that and the other thing, one of the stipulations Mark made was that he would do it if we came to London and record it with his band. We did three takes and the second one is the one you hear. We wanted to give it authenticity.”

Having Hancock join him on the album was another treat. The two partnered musically in the past, as they once performed together at the White House for Presidents Obama, Clinton, Carter, plus the president of China, as well as their spouses.

“It was big deal for me – it was sort of nerve-wracking, but it was fun,” Botti said of the first time he played at the White House. He later performed there again when George W. Bush was in office. “There I was playing with Herbie Hancock, which, in a weird way, was even more of a thrill than to play for the politicians.”

He and Hancock played “My Funny Valentine,” a hit that inspired Botti to learn trumpet.

“That’s the song that made me want to become a trumpet player,” said Botti. “I heard it on a record player. It was the first time I ever heard Miles Davis and it just knocked me back. I just thought, ‘I want to be a trumpet player for the rest of my life.’”

To be clear, Botti started playing trumpet when he was nine-years-old after seeing Carl Hilding “Doc” Severinse, the original trumpet player on The Tonight Show. But when he was 12 or 13, he heard Davis for the first time and connected with the instrument on a more emotional level.

“I was always enamored with the sound and flavor of the dark, pretty sound Miles Davis made with his horn,” he said.

As an attempt to sound as much like his hero as possible, Botti plays on the same make that Davis plays on – a Martin Committee large bore trumpet made in 1939. He also uses a No. 3 silver-plated mouthpiece from Bach, which was crafted in 1926.

“They stopped making them years ago and I just believe that the new horns haven’t aged yet and don’t have the same sort of sound,” he said. “Someone gave me this horn to try out about 12 or 13 years ago and I played two notes on it and was like, ‘This is amazing.’ It’s a very unique sound and I’ve blessed to have run across it. It’s been a fantastic friendship ever since.”

Another friendship Botti holds near and dear to his heart is with Sting, now a solo artist who became famous by fronting the band The Police. He credits Sting with helping him establish a career.

“I never would have had a career had it not been for my ongoing, close friendship with Sting,” he said. “He has really helped me in every possible way. The relationship goes well beyond music. Meeting him and working with him and having it blossom into a deep friendship is something that I look at as the greatest thing that’s happened to me. He became family in many ways.”

Yet, Botti has made quite the name for himself in his own right. While his success came later in his life, he tours incessantly to keep fans interested.

“They are what it’s all about,” he said.

All too often, Botti said, he has witnessed artists reach the pinnacle of success and then lose it simply because they became disengaged. That’s not an option for him.

“You need to care about your audience and whether they are getting music that they love,” said Botti. “A lot of artists, especially those in their 20s, say, ‘Oh, the road is too difficult. I’m going to take four years off.’ And then their audience goes, ‘Goodbye.’ I don’t want that to happen to me. I want to be able to tour well into my 60s or 70s if I can still play the horn.”

To do that, he said, an artist must be willing to make sacrifices.  It isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.

“You have to sacrifice a lot of life for the benefits of being able to walk on stage every night and be grateful that there is an audience there for you because they can just as easily spend their money and go download the latest and greatest thing and not come to your show,” said Botti. “That’s something that I’m well aware of.”

The Zeiterion Performing Arts Center’s box office is located at 684 Purchase Street, New Bedford, Mass. Box Office Hours: M-F 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and one hour before each performance. For more information, visit www.zeiterion.org or call 508-994-2900.

“We look forward to the show,” Botti said. “It’s going to be a great one.”

Fall & Bounce to open for Zebra at the Rock Junction

Fall and Bounce

BY JESSICA A. BOTELHO

“We’re very excited to open for Zebra,” said Malyssa BellaRosa, vocalist for the Providence-based band Fall & Bounce. “We can’t wait.”

Bassist Christine Hauck agrees.

“We’re thrilled to be on this double bill,” she said.

The quartet will be kicking off the night for Zebra this Friday, Oct. 26, at the Rock Junction in Coventry, R.I. The show starts at 8 p.m.

“I saw them when I was 15 and I was really into Led Zeppelin,” said BellaRosa. “I was blown away because they did Led Zeppelin songs at the old Living Room [in Providence].”

As they did at that show, Zebra will also be performing Zeppelin songs Friday, as well as tunes from their own catalog, including their biggest hits, “Tell Me What You Want” and “Who’s Behind the Door?”

But what does Fall & Ball have in store for fans?

“A very passionate performance,” said BellaRosa.

Passion is exactly what keeps them going. Formed in the summer of 2011 after BellaRosa met guitarist Bill Reed at an open mic night, they decided to get together and experiment. They landed a gig almost immediately, yet didn’t have a full line-up.

“It forced us to make a band,” said Reed.

Shortly after, they hooked up with Hauck and drummer Jamie Craighead. In a year’s time, they were named the 2012 “Breakthrough Act” by the Providence Phoenix, and were nominated in three categories for the 2012 Limelight Magazine Music Awards, including “New Artist of the Year,”  “Song of the Year” for “Controlled Tension Time Bomb,” and “Female Vocalist of the Year.”

Another local publication also nominated them for “Breakthrough Band,” with BellaRosa earning a “Best Vocalist” nomination.

“It’s definitely an honor to be nominated for several different awards in a matter of being a band for less than a year,” said Craighead. “It’s a great feeling.”

Reed shared his sentiments. He said it’s nice to be noticed.

“We’re doing what we enjoy and setting ourselves up to keep doing it,” said Reed. “Sometimes, you don’t realize people are paying attention. Providence has been very supportive and it is very encouraging, not just for us, but for other folks who are getting nominated.”

While they blend a lot of genres, they said it’s difficult to describe their sound. Still, Hauck said she often tells people they can be best defined as a hard, melodic rock group.

“The most important thing is that we get people to listen,” she said.

Reed added, “To me, it sounds like 70s rock.”

BellaRosa said they are honest in what they do and aren’t pretending or trying to sound like other bands. She views their music as a means to connect with people.

“People use music for cathartic reasons – they use it to get through life, which can be difficult,” she said. “When you hear a band and you can relate to the music, it really does set you free. It sounds like a cliché, but it helps you get thorough the next thing in life.”

Since they’ve established themselves in Rhode Island, Fall & Bounce are working on booking gigs throughout New England. They’re also writing music for a new and third album, which they hope to begin recording in December.

It will follow their self-titled release in 2011 and Knickknack Avalanche, which they released in May. Typically, Reed comes up with chord progressions and brings them to the rest of the band.

“We have a bunch of music that we are firming up right now,” BellaRosa said. “Most of the songs come really easy and lyrics come out in one shot. And then there are others that I’ve rewritten five times. It’s kind of a labor of love. I love it though, because it’s a challenge.”

When they are not composing new music, they’re rehearsing or performing. For Craighead, playing live is the best part of being in the band.

“It’s such a feeling of release and emotion,” he said. “When I get onstage and play for people, it’s fun. It just makes me feel alive and playing with these fine people is one of the best experiences I’ve had in my life. I’ve played music for a majority of my life, but I’ve had an absolute blast with these guys.”

“When you’re in a room with people and you can get reactions from them and you know you’re connecting it does make you feel alive,” agreed BellaRosa. “The blood in my body is like the live performance to my music.”

Hauck enjoys the fact that every performance is unique. She likes that they get to switch things up each time they play.

“We don’t necessarily play things the same way at every gig – Bill changes his solo, I change my bass line,” she said. “There’s always something else that happens.”

One thing that’s new for BellaRosa is the fact that she performs sans guitar. In bands she performed with before forming Fall & Bounce, she always played guitar in addition to singing.

“It’s been an interesting change up for me,” she said. “At first, it was really weird and that’s when I discovered my dance moves. I like it because I can dance to the music.”

In the future, they hope their holiday parties stay the same.

“We’re looking forward to our second ‘Festivus’ celebration this year,” Christine said of the fictional holiday made famous by the popular sitcom, Seinfeld. “Last year, we had a practice that ended up turning into a drunken Christmas party. I think we played two or three songs and ended up eating and drinking.”

For now, they’re looking forward to Friday night with Zebra.

“It’s going to be fun,” said Reed.

For tickets to the show, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/239202.

The Mystix and Liz Frame ready to play Blue Ocean Music Hall

The Mystix

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

Jo Lily of the five-piece Americana Roots ensemble, The Mystix, said they are at an all-time career high. In May, they kicked-off their “Ramble Roots Tour” in support of their fourth studio album, “Mighty Tone,” and since then, everything has been going even better than they imagined.

“We’re achieving the highest level of success the band has ever gone through – we’ve sold out every single show,” he said of their 10-date national tour. “We brought in a phenomenal guy for the tour, Jerry Portnoy, who’s an iconic harp player. He played for Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton. He’s probably the best-known harp player in the world right now, expect for James Cotton. He brings a lot to the show.”

Additionally, guitarist and singer/songwriter Ricky “King” Russell, who has performed with acts such as David “Honey Boy” Edwards, John Lee Hooker, Duke Robillard, Roomful of Blues and James Montgomery, has been touring with them. He opened for Steve Miller last August and has been featured on House of Blues Radio Hour, hosted by actor Dan Akroyd.

With the star-studded line-up, Lily, guitarist and lead vocalist, hopes they also sell out their next performance, which will take place Oct. 27th at the Blue Ocean Music Hall in Salisbury, Mass. Opening the night will be Liz Frame and the Kickers, a female-driven band from the North Shore area.

Lily, as well as Frame, who handles lead vocals and guitar for her band, have never gigged at the venue. Both bands can’t wait to play there.

“I’m looking forward to playing it,” Frame said. “It’s just beautiful.”

Lily shares her sentiments.

“It’s a great club and we’re thrilled to be playing there with Liz,” he said. “I think she’s going to be a really strong addition for the show and I think she’ll bring in a lot of her own fans because she’s very strong in the area. She’s really a good friend of ours. We have gigged together in the past, sung duets together, we’re friends, and I have a lot of respect for her songwriting and performing.”

For Frame, the feeling is mutual. Not only is she excited to play the venue, she’s pleased to share the bill with The Mystix.

“They are a great band to work with,” she said. “I’ve done a little bit of stuff with them before as a solo performer and I know Jo really well. He’s a good guy and I’ve worked with a number of the musicians in the band in the studio, so I’m connected to them. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

During the show, The Mystix, comprised of an all-star veteran lineup of artists such as guitarist Bobby B. Keyes, drummer Marty Richards, bassist Marty Ballou, and keyboardist Tom West, will begin filming a live album. The recording will mark their fifth, as well as their first live release.

From there, Lily said they plan to visit Europe for a tour, and then hit the studio to master the live album, which will come out in the spring.

So, why has the band decided to tour Europe?

“We’re doing extremely well in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, Belgium, Holland, Germany, France, and we’re working on the U.K. right now,” Lily said. “We’re  planning on taking a trip to Europe probably next summer.”

Of course, they are fairing quite well in the U.S., too. “The Mighty Tone” has received airplay on American radio, particularly on Boston stations, including WUMB, among others.

Also, they’ll be featured on “The Loft,” a show that airs on SiriusXM Radio. Meg Griffin, a former New York radio disc jockey, will be conducting the interviewing.

Griffin plays The Mystix regularly on her show, said Lily, and has interviewed musicians like Mick Jagger and Paul Simon.

“She’s a legendary broadcaster,” said Lily, who noted Portnoy is scheduled to join them for the interview.

Recording for “The Loft,” which will highlight the history of the band, starts Oct. 29th and will be aired at least three times during the next few months. The band will be posting the dates on their website at themystix.com.

In similar fashion to The Mystix, Liz Frame and the Kickers also plan to release a live album, which Frame said she hopes will be available in early 2013. After that, they’ll embark on a mid-Atlantic tour.

Frame, who writes all the material, described their originals as “fun music that’s tightly written and very catchy.” She wrote her first song at the young age of nine during a long drive to the beach with her parents.

“It’s something that I feel I was born to do,” she said.

The band has an emphasis on vocals, often with two and three part harmonies. Frame shares vocals with band members Lynne Taylor, who plays upright bass, as well as Kristine Malpica, a percussionist. Guitarist Mark Toolan, drummer
Charlie Farr, and harmonica player Jason Novak join them in the band.

Frame said while they used to be more acoustic-based, they are a little more “hard-hitting” these days.

“I really like the direction it’s going,” she said. “People who go to our shows and have not seen us before will come up to me and tell me it doesn’t sound like original material, in that it sounds like covers they’ve just never heard. That is the best form of flattery because it means that we’re doing something right when it comes to the material.”

She is also happy with the direction her career as a musician is going. While she was offered record deals early on in her career, she turned them down to raise her daughter.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a natural decision to make because at the time she was young and I knew that I wasn’t going to sacrifice her childhood and time with her for a full-fledged career in music because I knew what that career would take and I didn’t have it in me,” said Frame. “I was OK with that and, looking back, I’m really glad that I made that decision because coming into music at this stage of my life I’m a much better performer than I’ve ever been. I’m much more confident and I’m a better songwriter. I feel as if I was meant to wait. I wouldn’t be having nearly as much fun if I did it back then.”

Moreover, she said she’s content that she waited because it’s much easier for artists to promote their music today. The Internet, she said, makes it simple for musicians to get their name out there.

“Now, you can put your stuff online,” said Frame. “That wasn’t the case 20 years ago.”

Either way, she said she enjoys being part of a band, as well as composing new material.

“I love the whole group effort and the people I work with are great,” she said. “And performing live is the ultimate thing.”

Lily feels the same.

“I love the music and the feeling we get when we connect with an audience,” he said. “It’s intoxicating and impossible to put it down. I love the camaraderie of the band. It’s the best I’ve ever had in any group. We have a warmth and camaraderie that I’ve never experienced in all my years of playing and it’s been really special for everybody.”

To purchase tickets to the show call 978-462-5888 or visit northshorepavillion.com.

For more information about The Mystix visit themystix.com. Additional information on Liz Frame and the Kickers is at lizframeandthekickers.com. Both bands have fan pages on Facebook, as well.

Bringing great entertainment to New England since 2011!