Dennis Willmott, guitar and vocals
Dennis Willmott is one of the most authentic blues guitarists and singers you’ll ever hear. His mastery of both acoustic and electric styles emanates from early experiences in the 1950’s listening to Leadbelly, Mance Lipscomb, Lightning Hopkins, Brownie McGhee and “Gatemouth” Brown.
By 1963 he was performing acoustic blues in the Piedmont tradition as well as the Delta and Texas twelve-bar style. Transitioning to the more urban style of electric blues in the early 1990’s, Dennis played with Big Joe Burrell in the last three years of his life and formed his own well-known band Left Eye Jump, which continues to perform all over Vermont.
Dennis has an encyclopedic knowledge of blues history and sub-styles which he conveys in an articulate and entertaining manner. He furthers his mission to bring the blues to more musicians and wider audiences by serving on the board of directors of the Vermont Blues Society.
Paul Asbell, guitars and vocals
From his early years playing blues on Chicago’s South Side to his present multi-faceted career based in northern Vermont, Paul Asbell is a true “musician’s musician”. He has played and recorded with Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, Lightnin’ Slim, Paul Butterfield, Sam Lay, Pops Staples and Donny Hathaway.
Moving to Vermont in 1971, Paul played and recorded with a diverse array of artists including Big Mama Thornton, singer-songwriters Paul Siebel, Jim Ringer, Mary McCaslin, and Rosalie Sorrells, and jazz greats Jon Hendricks, Bobby McFerrin, Sonny Stitt, Nick Brignola.
Paul formed Kilimanjaro in 1978, recording 2 award-winning albums and touring internationally. In 1981, Kilimanjaro joined with legendary saxophonist and singer, Joe Burrell to form Big Joe Burrell and the Unknown Blues Band.
Paul has taught guitar for over 45 years and currently teaches at Middlebury College and the University of Vermont.
Kenny B, bass
Kenny B was born in Harlem, NY and was surrounded by music from early childhood. He played piano from 4 to 8 years old and became a Funkateer at 9 when he started playing bass. Early influences were Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins and Charles Mingus. In his teenage years Kenny spent time hanging out with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. That’s when he learned from Art that the rhythm section steers the band and a good strong rhythm section is always needed.
Kenny played with James Cotton, Koko Taylor and Sleepy LaBeef. For the last 27 years Kenny has played with Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson, With Luther, Kenny performed in Canada and Europe, including the Pilsner Blues Fest and in 18 cities in Turkey, The band also played extensively throughout the States, headlining and receiving co-billing with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Van Morrison, James Montgomery, Taj Mahal, Levon Helm and Junior Wells.
Of his life as a performer Kenny says, “I just love seeing people having a good time.”
Joe Moore, saxophones and vocals
We regret to announce that due to illness Joe will not be able to make it to the 2022 Vermont Blues Retreat. We wish him a speedy recovery.
We love you and will miss you, Joe. You were a big part of our 2021 Retreat and there’s no replacing you.
Wilson Pickett came to town and Joe Moore, who was seventeen, hit the road blowing sax all over Florida and then beyond. Since then Joe has performed throughout the US and abroad with Slim Harpo, Lee Moses and the Showstoppers, AL “TNT” Dynamite Braggs, Junior Walker, Billy Stewart, Big Joe Burrell, Bo Diddley, Joe Lovano and Archie Shepp. In Vermont he fronts his own Joe Moore Band and plays with Bob Stannard and Those Dangerous Bluesmen.
Chuck Eller, piano and keyboards
Chuck Eller has been a keyboardist and music producer for over 40 years. In addition to his role as keyboard player for the internationally known pop-jazz group Kilimanjaro, he has also performed with numerous blues artists over the years, including a US tour backing legendary blues icon, Paul Butterfield, along with the other members of Kilimanjaro. Together with Butterfield, they performed across the US and appeared at the prestigious Montreal Jazz Festival, as well as the Roskilde Festival, in Copenhagen, Denmark. In addition, Kilimanjaro has backed up blues greats W.C. Clark, New Orleans own Kenny Neal and Marva Wright.
For 27 years Chuck was a member of the popular Vermont based group, The Unknown Blues Band, which featured B.B. King alumnus Big Joe Burrell. During that time the band spread their unique sound performing at the Kool Jazz Festival (Newport), the Yaroslav Jazz Festival in the Soviet Union and The Utrecht Blues Festival in the Netherlands.
Jeff Salisbury, drums and vocals
Jeff Salisbury has played professionally since the 1960’s, performing, touring, and recording with numerous blues, R&B, and jazz artists Albert King, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Linda Tillery, and Cold Blood, among others.
He recently retired after 25 years as the Drum Set Artist/Teacher at the University of Vermont. He is an original faculty member of KoSA International Percussion Workshops, and is the author of Melodic Motion Studies For Drumset, published by Hal Leonard Music.
Jeff wants to acknowledge his teachers George Marsh, Peter Magadini, Bob Moses and Max Roach.
He endorses DW drums and Aquarian Drumheads. He maintains an active playing schedule with four different bands, including the Jeff Salisbury Band and Left Eye Jump.
Johnny Falk, vocals and guitar
Although Johnny could be considered a member of the younger blues generation, his vocals are timeless and cannot be placed in any era. With an identity wholly his own, his singing is authentic, passionate and powerful. As a lead guitarist, his work reaches back to his many influences while retaining contemporary qualities. He embraces both tube and solid state technologies and has a comprehensive knowledge of effects pedals.
As a VBR faculty member, Johnny will mainly focus on vocals. He clearly communicates his approach, citing historical inspiration and illustrating his self-taught techniques. He will also be a valuable resource to work with guitarists.
Most recently Johnny has played with Downtown Bob Stannard and His Dangerous Bluesmen.
Bob Stannard, harmonica and vocals
Bob Stannard has been playing and singing blues since 1969 when he quit playing the drums and took up the harmonica. He has since played throughout the world.
Bob is an exciting performer known for his showmanship, quick licks and amazing dynamics. Bob played with Sandra Wright of Nashville, Big Joe Burrell — formerly of the BB King band — and was invited to join BB on stage at the 36th Montreux Jazz Festival in Montreux, Switzerland.
Bob also opened for and/or played with John Hammond, Chris Smither, Maria Muldaur, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Lynard Skynard, Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi and Issac Hayes. He appeared on stage with the amazing David “Honey Boy” Edwards. In 2009 Bob was invited on stage to join his all-time idol, Charlie Musselwhite for a killer rendition of “Movin’ and Groovin”.
Bob has fronted his own band Downtown Bob Stannard and Those Dangerous Bluesmen for many years, and continues to appear as a guest artist with numerous other bands.
Brian Hobbs, harmonica
Brian is a remarkable harpist and that’s not even his main instrument — he’s also an excellent bassist. Playing harp since his teenage years, Brian has a soulful style and a thorough knowledge of the instrument. He is a returning faculty member from the 2021 Vermont Blues Retreat when he fascinated both participants and faculty with his ability to clearly explain the techniques and sounds of different harpists through the ages. Later that day he appeared in the VBR faculty concert — check out the Gallery to listen to his playing.
Rob Zollman, Retreat co-producer / drums
Since the mid-1980’s Rob and his co-producer and partner Alyssa Mohl have produced concerts, events and studio recordings. As a musician for over 50 years, Rob has played small and big band jazz, blues, rock, Brazilian and klezmer music. He also has a classical and contemporary background and has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Harry Partch Ensemble and bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma at New Music America.
In Vermont since 2003, Rob plays regularly in several bands, has played numerous musicals at the Paramount and Middlebury Town Hall Theaters and occasionally subs in Dennis Willmott’s band, Left Eye Jump.
Rob is a passionate, life-long teacher. His studies with noted music learning theorist Professor Edwin Gordon inspired him to write his book Whole Music Drumming. His students have included Ari Hoenig, Ken Every (Jacksonville Symphony), Gene Jackson (Herbie Hancock) and Mike Shapiro (Flora Purim).
Rob’s mission is to offer music-making opportunities to anyone regardless of age and ability. Everyone can make music.