After more than five years since his last release, Boston-based funk and retro-soul musician Big Ben Hillman is finally releasing his debut full-length solo album. The Friday Night Consortium, a collection of a dozen all new original Hillman compositions, runs the gamut of soulful grooves; from the up-tempo kick off number “Let’s Get Crazy” and the smooth dance-floor grinder “Friday Night,” to melodious ballads like “Beautiful Stranger” (a duet with Boston-based songstress Lydia Harrell) or feel-good disco romps like “It’s Too Easy,” The Friday Night Consortium has something for everyone.
“I’d been recording an album in New York before I got called to go on tour with the Greg Luttrell Band,” says Hillman, who was born and raised in the Boston area. “We spent four months in Shanghai, China. When I got back to the states I was going to pick up where I left off, but instead I ended up writing a whole new album with all new songs.” Big Ben Hillman, best known for hits like “It Must Have Been The Music” featuring Nephtaliem McCrary of The Nephrok! All-Stars and the blues-flavored hip-hop number “I’m Sorry” featuring Boston emcee Fee (One-Love, Ex-Cal) and Meyer Statham (Chucklehead, John Scofield) has spent most of his career as a hired freelance keyboardist, percussionist and background vocalist. He’s performed with local acts such as D-Tension, The Boston Horns and Michigan Blacksnake as well as major artists as diverse as hip-hoppers De La Soul and The Wu Tang Clan and rockers like Les Claypool and Jimmy Buffet, yet Hillman says that writing and producing music has long been his primary aim.
“I’ve always considered myself a songwriter first,” says the man known by many as The Professor of Funk. His first big break as a producer came in the form of “Lay ‘Em Down,” a heavy gangster rap cut featuring Krumb Snatcha that he co-wrote and co-produced with D-Tension on his Contacts and Contracts II album. “I was raised on hip-hop; it’s a part of my heritage,” Big Ben says of his past work with the Brick Records artist “but I always knew I had something else inside of me to share with the world.”
In 2010, the performer who had started his career as a session drummer in Lowell, MA would take his act on the road, performing in clubs in Philadelphia, Washington DC and New York City. “I got a whole lot of experience spending those days on the club circuit out there; I was really starting to find my voice as an artist,” Hillman says as he reflects on his days on the road. “Now that I am back in Boston I really feel like I have found my center and I am able make my visions come to life.” The Friday Night EP is a four song promotional release containing the singles released from the album, leading up to the release of the full-length album on Friday September 18th. A release event will be held that night at Toad in Porter Square, Cambridge, MA. The album will be available at CD Baby, Bandcamp and at Big Ben’s website (www.bigbenhillman.com) as well as all live events.