Sallins to open Sunday's concert at Stone Church

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BRATTLEBORO — Over the course of his 50-year career, Jo Sallins has encountered a host of inspirational figures, ranging from adventurous musicians like Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke, to spiritual icons such as Martin Luther King and Deepak Chopra. He also drew expertise from several integral mentors including extraordinary drummer Billy Arnold.

When I asked the multi-instrumentalist jazz performer and educator to recall the moment where he decided to pursue a career in music, his response was surprising. Salllins went back five decades to a time he encountered the "Godfather Of Soul." "The one artist that really inspired and caused me to think seriously about music was James Brown, whom I'm met when I was 9 years old. When we met, we were dressed the same, gold turtleneck, gold medallions, black pants and shoes, it was a crazy and cool moment!"

After a short pre-concert conversation with Brown, young Sallins and his mom took in his high-energy show. The turning point for Sallins occurred after Brown shouted "Can I get the drummer some?" "The audience went ballistic." recalled Sallins "And at that moment I decided that I would pursue the drums!"

Sallins then dove into some serious tutelage, including 17 years of orchestral drumming lessons with Jim Calapaletis, African and Latin hand percussion lessons with Marshall Small and Alvin Abu and under the intensive direction of Arnold he soaked up the traditions and styles of funk, fusion, and jazz.

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Another key career turning point for Sallins came when Arnold insisted that his student, who back then was immersed in R&B, soul, and funk, check out Corea and Return to Forever's album, "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy." In those grooves, Sallins discovered a new and exciting platform for his drumming: jazz fusion. He later was inspired by the magical work of Clarke to take up another instrument-the bass guitar.

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Sallins also credited his sister with turning him onto the piano. "She would come home on the weekends from Berklee College of Music and leave her music at the piano and I would read the charts, learn to play the Hanon exercises and studying her classical etudes.

Today, Sallins has mastered the unique art of playing bass guitar and keyboard-simultaneously, something he is likely to do when he appears this Sunday in Brattleboro, opening for Nick DiMaria & Wicked at The Stone Church.

I asked Sallins to share his thoughts about the show and what attendees might expect musically on Sunday, "I am honored to get an opportunity to open for Nick DiMaria and Wired and play at the Stone Church. I played there before with Tony Vacca and we had a blast! ... Whoever attends this performance will experience excellent musicianship, very unique arrangements ranging from Miles Davis to Stevie Wonder to Michael Jackson."

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But whenever and whatever he performs, Sallins goes back to that childhood magic moment and pulls from that inspiration. "With all the things I do regardless of the age of the audience, the setting or style of music I owe my entertaining skills to James Brown, If people are not enjoying themselves then what's the point!"

Sallins opens for Nick DiMaria & Wicked at the Stone Church, 210 Main St., Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 at or $15 at door

Dave Madeloni may be reached at


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