Compass Music Center presents Vermont Blues Retreat

BRANDON — Brandon Music and The Compass Music and Arts Center is partnering with Hands On Music to offer master classes and workshops in Blues music concluding with a faculty concert at Brandon Music on Saturday, August 14 at 7:30 p.m. 

 The faculty features  some of Vermont’s finest blues musicians, notably authentic blues guitarist Dennis Willmott,  acclaimed guitarist Paul Asbell, legendary Kenny B on bass,  the incredible sax player Joe Moore,  keyboardist and music producer Chuck Eller,  and the effervescent Jeff Salisbury on drums.  Activities throughout the retreat will include solo and band instruction, time for practicing, rehearsals, master classes, coached jam sessions, round table discussions and evening public performances.

 The retreat was masterminded by Rob Zollman, a respected musician and music teacher with almost 50 years in the music world and a passion for the Blues. Zollman had hoped to launch the retreat in 2020, but due to COVID needed to postpone until conditions became more favorable. He is hoping the retreat will attract musicians and vocalists who love playing and performing the blues.

 For more information about the concert contact Edna Sutton at 802-282-8655 or to enroll in the workshops contact Rob Zollman at 802-247-2700 or visit the website

BASS PLAYER KENNY B is one of the faculty members offering workshops at the Vermont Blues Retreat. Photo provided.


The  faculty has a direct lineage to some of the greatest names in the history of blues. As working musicians they honor and respect the traditions, the sharing of knowledge and providing mentorship.

Dennis Willmott, guitar and vocals
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 1950s 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 1990s, he 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

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, Asbell 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.

Asbell formed Kilimanjaro in 1978, recording two 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.

He has taught guitar for over 45 years. He currently teaches at Middlebury College and the University of Vermont. 

Kenny B, bass

Kenny B was born in Harlem, N.Y. 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 B played with James Cotton, Koko Taylor and Sleepy LaBeef. For the past 27 years he has played with Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson. With Johnson, Kenny B performed in 12 countries from Canada to Europe, to the Pilsner Blues Fest and across 18 cities in Turkey. They also played extensively throughout the United 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 B says, “I just love seeing people having a good time.”

Joe Moore, saxophones and vocals
Wilson Pickett came to town and Joe Moore, who was 17, hit the road blowing sax all over Florida and then beyond. Since then Moore has performed throughout the U.S. 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 U.S. tour backing legendary blues icon Paul Butterfield, along with the other members of Kilimanjaro. Together with Butterfield, they performed across the U.S. 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 1960s, 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. He has studied with 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.

Rob Zollman, Retreat co-producer/drums
Since the mid-1980s Zollman has produced concerts, events and studio recordings. As a musician for over 50 years, he’s 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 with jazz bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma at New Music America. 

In Vermont since 2003, he plays regularly in several bands and has played numerous musicals at the Paramount and Middlebury Town Hall Theaters. He occasionally subs in Dennis Willmott’s band, Left Eye Jump.  

Zollman 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).

His mission is to offer music-making opportunities to anyone regardless of age and ability. He believes everyone can make music.

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