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By MATT PAIS
Staff Writer

For some people, the contemporary music landscape lacks a certain degree of sophistication and meaning. According to Ernie, lead singer and namesake of local band Big Baby Ernie, that has a huge influence on what he and his band mates play onstage.

"We really don't care much for what's on the radio today," he says. "We like to play songs with a little rust on them; things that have held up over time."

What results is often a performance consisting of diverse songs crossing many musical genres. For instance, one recent set at Nardi's in Haven Beach included a seamless transition between Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" and the Carlos Santana classic, "Black Magic Woman."

As a band, Big Baby Ernie is most certainly talented and well-rehearsed. The current lineup, consisting of Scott Bennert on bass, Vince Bergamo on keyboard, Bryan Brosen on drums, Conor McArthy on guitar, Christian Parkess on Saxophones and Ernie himself providing the vocals, has played together for the better part of six years. The band took the moniker Big Baby Ernie as a way to pay homage to their singer's family.

"My dad and grandfather were both named Ernie and both musicians," he says. "I was always 'Baby Ernie' until I eventually outgrew my dad. From then on, Big Baby Ernie just kind of made sense."

After starting out in their hometown areas of Toms River and Seaside, the quintet begun to gather a following and branch out to the bars of Long Beach Island.

With influences ranging from classic Motown to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, their sound is a unique blend of rock and soul. But when the situation calls for it, this not-so-average bar band will dip even further into their plentiful bag of tricks.

"We love to play jazz standards." says Ernie, "If we're in a place where people are sitting down and eating dinner, we'll play something like Sinatra or Tony Bennett."

Asked whether it is tough to compile a set list from such a large arsenal, Ernie scoffs.

"We haven't written a set list in five years. We just look at each other and play. It might be more inefficient (than using a set list), but it works for us," he said.

What also works for Big Baby Ernie is original material. The group offers their debut recording, a 10-track CD entitled "Where I Live," at all their shows. Not willing to slow down, Big Baby Ernie is already back at work at Ostrapotamous Studios in Toms River, NJ. "Its going to be 15 songs in a medley format," says Ernie. "There are going to be transitions between each song and they'll all tie in together."

After that, says Ernie, "We want to go on a tour across the country and do the eating hotdogs, living in a van thing." In the meantime, Big Baby Ernie will continue to impress with their live performances and vast repertoire of original and cover material. - The Asbury Park Press


Who knew Mondays could be so fun?

At McIntyre's Pub in Toms River, I recently caught the band Big Baby Ernie, asbolutely tearing the house down. From the first note people were on their feet dancing, having a great time. From girls dressed like they were going to the club to hippies to hardcore punkers, everyone was shaking what their mamma gave them. And all on a Monday. And this is what the band is all about, having fun.

Big Baby Ernie, formerly Boone's Farm, has taken the summer of 2005 by storm, by amassing over 30 plus shows a month.

An original band that performs a number of covers, Big Baby Ernie has established a reputation as a hardworking, fun band with a growing loyal fan base. And of all this has been done without them looking like models or covering top 40 pops hits. Their fusion of rock, pop, funk, soul and jazz has created a dance party atmosphere but with a flair for the creative and a skill that some bands only wish for.

The band was formed in 1998 when keyboardist Vince Bergamo invited his then 20-year-old friend Ernie DeLuise to an open mic jam session at Tin Lizzy (now McIntyre's Pub) in Toms River. There the two met bassist Scott Bennert and drummer Bryan Bosen and from there Boone's Farm was formed. Boone's would go onto play such venues as Bum Rogers and the Sawmill Cafe in Seaside Park, The Beachcomber in Seaside Heights, The Silverton Hub in Toms River and
Nick's Jersey Pub in Manchester. Their repertoire consisted mainly of 80s tunes at first, however the band decided to put something out there that was unique and something they loved playing.

So the 80s were pushed aside (although stilll played during certain sets) for their current sound, a fusion of Stevie Wonder-sounding soul and rock. This change of styles also saw a change in the band name. Throughout his life DeLuise was nicknamed "Baby Ernie" by his until he grew taller than his father (also a musician) and then he was dubbed "Big Baby Ernie." So as a loving jab to their frontman, the band changed the name to Big Baby Ernie or BBE for short.

In 2003, the band recorded their first album, Where I Live, adding DeLuise's
roommate from the Parsons School of Design/New School, Christian Parkess,
a classically trained saxophonist to the group. Initially Parkess was brought in
just to provide a "horn section" to the album, however after working together both sides knew they belonged together. The last piece of the BBE puzzle was added in 2005 when Ja Fizz guitarist Conor McCarthy was brought in to perform with the band during their Wednesday Jazz sessions at McIntyre's. McCarthy
became a full-time member this summer however the band does use guitarist Tommy Garofalo during their Monday sets.

Slowly, but surely the band has gained momentum, building a fiercely loyal fan base that are in love with the album, singing all the words to the original songs as if they were Top 40 hits. This has helped the band land weekly shows Sunday afternoons at The Green Room in Seaside Park and Sunday nights at the Crab's Claw Inn in Lavallette, Mondays at McIntyre's, Tuesdays at Nardi's Tavern on LBI, McIntyre's Wednesdays for BBE Jazz plus steady gigs on weekends at High Velocity in Beachwood, The Quarterdeck in Ship Bottom, Forked River House in Forked River, Used to Be's in Mantoloking, Pier One in Toms River and many various other locations in the county.

Jim Reynolds of McIntyre's, the band's home base, stated that having BBE every Monday "makes the weekend one day longer for some and creates a weekend atmosphere for restaurant/bar employees who work weekends. Musically they are great, as talented as any band out there. The wide range of song selections, plus their original stuff, which is great, make every BBE show fun."

As someone who has attended both their regular show at McIntyre's Monday and their jazz show Wednesdays, I personally can attest to just how amazing these guys are live. DeLuise's voice is unequivocally one of the best in the scene today. Melding Stevie Wonder with hints of Nat King Cole (during jazz sets) his range is phenomenal, his melodies killer and all mind blowingly powerful yet soulful at the same time. As for the band, these guys are tight as hell and talented to boot.

During the jazz sets you could see the love Brosen has for playing, as he seems to pour every ounce of his soul into the improvisation. On the bass, Bennert provides a great funk backbone and really gets the dance groove/bounce started, kicking it up to at least 11. Parkeess' saxophone really complements the band sound and solidifes them as a soul band, not just a bunch of white boys playing funk.
As for Garofalo and McCarthy, they are both extremely talented guitar players who can wail a solo and perform the intricacies of jazz. And what soul band would be complete without a keyboardist and Bergamo does a great job tickling the ivories.

Big Baby - Bill Bodkin, Night & Day Magazine


All the way from New Jersey, USA comes Big Baby Ernie to the civilised confines of the Gregson Centre in Lancaster. Bringing the kind of rock solid, dance 'til you die groove that is rarely found these days, they purvey that soul magic that we had thought lost. Introduced as a jazz funk band, this description does not do them justice for they are truly a powerhouse of a soul machine.

It does not take long for this band to warm up the crowd tonight. Drummer Bryan Bosen is a metronome with soul. He gets our feet tapping. Then the crowd move from their drinks to the dance floor. The temperature in the room starts to rise. Nobody will be able to stay still and that is the way that it turns out. You know the sign of a good live band? They don't care whether there are ten people in the room or ten thousand and they won't stop until they have won everyone over. If we have to classify their sound, we would have to call it steamroller soul on a mission to trample all mediocrity in its path. Lead singer Big Baby Ernie? He is Southside Johnny, he is Barry White, he is Jamiroquai but most of all he is his own man and by the end of their set, the audience will know that.

It is often said - especially by us - that music nowadays has become sterile and uninvolving. Then you hear a band like Big Baby Ernie perform live and you believe again. You believe in the way that music can uplift your soul. An example, we hear you say. One of the best songs of the evening was "Hurricane Song". It's got the lot. Passion, a killer hook and a sledgehammer groove. Songs like this should not come out of New Jersey. They should come out of Muscle Shoals. And when this band finally reach the end of their set, they bring Ben Ruth (of the Convulsions) on to the stage and transform themselves into an urban blues band. Shut your eyes and you are back in seventies' Chicago listening to Big Twist and the Mellow Fellows. These guys sweat soul and they are not going to stop until the whole room is moving. Bryan Bosen throws away his drumsticks and beats the skins by hand. Now that is commitment.

100% heart and 100% soul. This is the way live music should be. Soaked with sweat and smelling strongly of beer (not sure how that happened!), Bluesbunny considered his options as he hit the street. A large chicken kebab or some impromptu dancing in the street. No contest!

There is an epithet - the hardest working band in show business is the one we are thinking of - that should be applied to Big Baby Ernie. Satisfaction guaranteed or your dancing shoes back. If you get the chance, catch this band live. You will believe!


- The Bluesbunny - Independent Music Reviews


Next up is Big Baby Ernie. All the way from New Jersey says our Ben. They seem to be the most experienced band having regular gigs throughout New Jersey. They play with gusto laying down a solid groove that gets your feet tapping. Bluesbunny muses on things from the other side of the Atlantic. Where do they get their drummers? Everyone of them different but each one hits the skins with metronomic precision driving each song forward. Musicianship of the highest order and that's the truth. Tonight's man on the beat was Bryan Bosen. The temperature in the room is definitely rising now. Big Baby Ernie handles the audience like a seasoned pro. He compliments our warm British beer between songs. Songs like "Fairweather Friends" and "Hurricane Song" stick in the mind. But it's all good. Damn fine organ playing from Vince Bergamo too. The band's sound reminds Bluesbunny of Jamiroquai but without the pretensions. Or the expensive car collection, no doubt. Foot tapping, hard hitting, lip smacking, solid grooving, floor filling, enervating solid gold action. They are the real deal and that's for sure.

ALBUM REVIEW

Tight funk rhythms and intelligent lyrics impress on this 2004 release from Big Baby Ernie. Big Baby Ernie's able vocal talents handle the fast and slow numbers with ease. Musically they sound like they have just stepped out of a seventies time warp with a predominant organ (oooh, errr missus!) by Vince Bergamo. No shortage of jazzy interludes either.

Best tracks are passionate "Suffer" and "Hurricane Song" which would not be out of place on the soundtrack of any seventies cop movie featuring Yaphet Kotto.

Recently, Bluesbunny had the good fortune to catch a live performance by Big Baby Ernie where they delivered songs from this album with power and precision. Possibly as a result of this, this album suffers as these versions here tend to lack the focus brought by a couple of years performing them live. Nonetheless, it is worth a purchase. If you get the chance to see them live, take it. You will not be disappointed. - bluesbunny.com


Discography

Big Baby Ernie,"Where I Live" 10 song debut album

Photos

Bio

When Ernie DeLuise, a.k.a. Big Baby Ernie, was a young boy growing up on the Jersey Shore, he began playing music with a keyboard he stole...from his little sister. As Ernie recalls, “she went to two lessons and quit after she got the keyboard and six free lessons for Christmas. I snuck it into my bedroom and played around with it.” From that point forward, music would become the blueprint of twenty seven year-old Ernie’s life path, ultimately inspiring him to persevere and not take “No” for an answer from both critics and audiences alike.

To understand Ernie’s devotion to music, one need only look to his father and grandfather. “I was born into it. My father and grandfather were both musicians,” Ernie explains. The latter was a professional pianist at the age of twelve. Ernie’s grandfather played in movie houses in lower Manhattan to support his mother and siblings. As a teenager, Ernie’s father would tag along when he was learning to play bass, eventually becoming a working musician himself. Consequently, vinyl was omnipresent in the household when Ernie was growing up. “I would flip through my father’s records and ask him to play the ones with the cool covers, which were usually The Beatles and Stevie Wonder.” Ernie’s initial inclination was to express the visual imagery of the music. “I was always inspired to draw the lyrics of the songs…Art was my introduction to music and I still think of it in those terms.”

Despite Ernie’s growing talent in the visual arts, music gradually edged its way to the forefront, even as an exceptional art student participating in competitive programs at Parsons School of Design in New York City. He spent the majority of his time with the music students and, using the skills his father had taught him on bass guitar, soon began performing in high school with such improvisations of “So What” and “Chameleon.” “That was my first taste of performing other than singing squeaky-voiced at my dad’s lounge gigs whenever he could convince me,” says Ernie.

Ernie began drawing from his life experience as his singing and songwriting flourished throughout his teens and early twenties, eventually focusing on the piano. Everything from the prerequisite phase of teenage boredom to the heartache of a strained parental relationship was tapped for musical inspiration. Hailing from a broken family and experiencing the sudden loss of a step-parent have all played a part in the soul-driven music that serves as the conduit of Ernie’s expression. He says, “playing music is my way of addressing issues that everyone can relate to.”

When Ernie was twenty, a childhood friend of his, Vince Bergamo (organ/keyboard) was playing with a trio. Each member already a well-established local musician, Scott Bennert (bass) and Bryan Brosen [FUZZ THE WORLD] (drums); they were all looking for the same thing, their front man. It took only one invitation from Vince and a key to the "jam shed" and “Big Baby Ernie” was born. Ensuing years saw the addition of Conor McCarthy, a guitarist with a gift for improv, and Christian Parkess, a saxophonist from New York who attended The New School with Ernie.

All have come together to form this New Jersey band with an electrifying live show. Ernie’s perseverance and vision have brought them local success. Big Baby Ernie has gigged steadily in the Jersey Shore area, gradually moving up in venues. Notably, they have opened shows for blues legend Johnny Winter as well as roots reggae great Eek a Mouse and Bob Marley's legendary Wailers. With one album under their belt, Big Baby Ernie is currently writing and recording their next studio effort, narrowing the repertoire down from twenty five songs.

At day’s end, Big Baby Ernie’s goal is to bring various audiences together with their music. One small coup that Ernie recalls lucidly was a woman at a recent show who was visibly impatient for the main act to hit the stage. Noticing her distaste while trying to play his show, Ernie focused on why he had become a musician and his simple necessity to express himself. “I glanced back at her after I tried to ignore her and she was bobbing her head... surrendering to the groove that I had worked so hard to perfect. It was one of the most terrifying yet satisfying experiences of my musical career. The way I see it is, I’ve got soul enough to sing in front of anyone and I’ll get my face kicked in sometimes, but no one has a soul like mine.”