Nikki Armstrong- Vocalist/Songwriter/ Bandleader www.nikkiarmstrong.com
Born in Riverhead, Long Island, Nikki studied music and voice in Boston, LA, and New York; most notably with Hal Schaefer (Peggy Lee, Marilyn Monroe). Nikki is also a trained professional dancer and actress. Noted for soulful interpretations of material from standards to rock, she has been compared to, Tina Turner, Gladys Knight, Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin. Nikki strives to perform every song “in the now” and never the same way twice. After writing and doing session work in Sydney, Australia and Los Angeles, Nikki decided to change her focus to live performance. This took her back to New York City. Nikki has been performing in the New York Tri-State area for over 20 years, with her bands, Whole Lotta Blues (blues/rock/funk) and The Nikki Armstrong Project (jazz/blues), as well as “Just Janis” a tribute show. She has performed and recorded with Soul- Jazz guitarist Melvin Sparks, Bucky Pizzarelli, Les Paul and many others. Regularly performing in festivals and major venues, Nikki has opened for The Commitments, Joan Osborne, Dave Mason, Dickey Betts, Hubert Sumlin, Ivan Neville’s Dumpstafunk, Johnny A, Coco Montoya, Cornell Dupree, and Parliament Funkadelic, has performed in the Florida Keys, on Caribbean Cruise ships, and can be seen regularly at BB King Blues Club in Times Square and Trumpets Jazz in New Jersey. In 2012, Nikki resumed touring outside of the New York area. Playing to packed houses in France and was also inducted into the New York Blues Hall of Fame. She has five independent CD releases…Blues and Jazz, Live at B.B. King’s, Turnin’ & Burnin’, New, Borrowed & Blue and the 2012 release Now and Then. In 2014 she returned to France for a second tour and also became bi-coastal, returning to Los Angeles area performing, collaborating, and searching for exactly the right players to form and launch her next musical endeavor Mama SpanX .
Ben Beckley-Drummer/Composer/Producer Ben started playing drums at 11, where he was primarily interested in Jazz. In high school, he played in jazz groups, big band, and the Wanderers Drum & Bugle Corps in his hometown of New Rochelle, NY. He went to Berklee School of Music and Manhattan School of Music, where he learned music theory, arranging and composition. In the '70's he started playing in the eclectic NYC scene with various bands playing Rock, Soul/Funk, Blues, Country, Latin, Irish, and Middle Eastern music. This included playing in clubs, and concerts at the Fillmore East, Electric Circus, the Beacon Theater, and Madison Square Garden. He also did studio work in NY and Nashville at the Record Plant, Bell Sound, Capitol, and RCA studios, and at one point signed with Casablanca Records. He went on the road for a few years, in that period touring with Henry Gross as the opening act for the Doobie Brothers and Fleetwood Mac. Ben also played extensively with Billy Vera, along with bandmates John Leventhal and T-Bone Wolk. Finally, a move to LA where he reconnected with music friend from NY area, Nikki Armstrong. Nikki and Ben wrote and produced together for a few years until Nikki moved back to the east coast Most recently, he’s been playing in Blues bands with artists Nelsen Adelard, Mikey Mo' and Wumbloozo. Nikki and Ben started collaborating again in the summer of 2015 to begin work on Mama SpanX.
Steve Johnson-Guitar Steve started playing guitar in 1963 after his Uncle Mickey Johnson played his electric guitar for him. He played in rock blues bands in California, until moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1982. There he met Albert Collins, Willie Dixon, Luther Allison, Duke Robillard, Johnny Winter, and lots of Chicago and Detroit area blues players. Moved to New York City in 1983, and formed The Tanks in 1986, a Blues Power Trio and recorded 3 albums all independently released in the U.S. In 1994 Steve won the prestigious Guitar Player Magazine's "Ultimate Guitar" award for best blues guitarist. In 1995 he signed with Virgin Records and did 3 albums and toured behind each release. In 2000 Steve signed with the top European Blues label, Dixiefrog for 5 albums. All album recordings and tours were played with Clifford McComas on the drums, and Mark Pavlica on bass. In 2008 Steve signed with New Jersey based, digital label ACM Records to write for and place original music in movies, T.V., soundtracks, and documentaries worldwide. About this time a new band was formed called High 5 featuring Julie Sax- on Alto. Steve and Julie moved to L.A.in 2015 and played with Ann Arbor guitar compadre Brophy Dale. Steve has played with Paul Butterfield, Johnny Copeland, Paul Schaeffer, Albert Collins, Little Jimmy King, Jaco Pastorious, Fernando Saunders, Leslie West, Little Mike, Hubert Sumlin, Nikki Armstrong, Popa Chubby, Michael Hill and many other wonderful New York area blues, jazz, and rock musicians. Currently Steve is holding down the guitar chair for Paul Navidade's Orange County Big Band, and Bill Blackwell's "Sons of Thunder Big band.
Julie Sax-Woodwinds/Arranger Julie started her musical journey playing classical flute at the age of nine. And yes, she *did* play the flute in band camp... In her early years playing sax she could be found frequenting downtown NYC clubs such as Dan Lynch, Nightingales, Arturo's and 55 Grand, sitting in at every opportunity to hone her blues and jazz chops. After one year in the Caribbean playing big band music, jazz, and accompanying various entertainers on a cruise ship, while simultaneously working on a fabulous tan, she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston on a scholarship. There, she studied jazz performance and continued to play all types of professional music jobs in jazz, blues, and pop. While at Berklee, Julie discovered merengue, (Dominican dance music). She was drawn to this music as if by magnetic force and fell in love with not only the music but the Dominican culture and people. She eventually moved to New York, and performed all over mainland U.S., Puerto Rico, and Dominican Republic for decades with the greatest artists in the merengue scene, including Johnny Ventura, Milly Quezada, and Ramon Orlando. Julie has been invited to perform with singers of jazz and the Great American Songbook such as Dolores Petersen, Greg Marx, Barbara Porteus, and Kurt Reichenbach, in Los Angeles and New York. Most recently she has added blues/rock/funk music to her repertoire, playing with The Crazy Horse All-Stars featuring actor/producer Vincent Pastore (and portraying a jam session musician in the stage production “Crazy Horse,” written by Vincent Pastore , guitar virtuoso Steve Johnson, and Nikki Armstrong.
Rex Perry -Keyboards/Organ Born in La Jolla, California, became enamored with the B3 Organ listening to Booker T. & the M.G.'s and started taking piano lessons at the age of 8. Bought his first synthesizer after becoming a fan of the legendary Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) and took electronic music training at UCSD while in high school. Studied music composition and performance at UCLA and toured Japan as part of a singing group, performing on two different live national TV shows, to a full house at Osaka Music Hall, and before the Emperor of Japan. Has played in several bands as a rock keyboardist, including with members of the Warren Zevon band, Missing Persons and pop artist Sofya Wang. In recent years has taken up performing as a keyboardist, pianist and singer in venues all over LA County and Palm Desert, playing to audiences of up to several thousand, and brings his rock, R&B/Soul keyboardist talents to Mama SpanX!
Steve Sadd – Saxophones/Arranger Steve has been involved in Professional music all of his life. He has been honored to have performed or recorded with such respected Jazz artists as Tom Garvin, Art Pepper, Jim Keltner, Thom Rotella, Roger Neumann, Rick Zunigar, and Tom Peterson, Lloyd Price, The Diamonds, Willie Chambers and Joe Chambers (of the "Chambers Brothers"), The Four Preps, and Dallas Hodge (formerly of Canned Heat). Steve has performed with many groups and celebrity artists including Michael Landon, playing (and singing) various styles of music including R&B, Jazz, Classic Rock, Latin, Country and Pop/Top 40. He has performed with groups opening concerts for Crosby Stills, Jefferson Starship, and the Doobie Brothers. Steve has entertained for the Academy Awards Governor's Ball and works as a studio musician playing both saxophone and electric bass. He has been a voting member of the Grammy Awards Society (N.A.R.A.S.) for over 32 years.
Gary Bivona-Trumpets/Trombone Son of renown big band and recording musician Gus Bivona, Gary is also an engineer, mixer, producer and editor at virtually all the major TV production houses, ABC, NBC and CBS throughout the years. has played jazz and big band gigs like is father, the famous Sax and Clarinet player, Gus Bivona. And accomplished player in his own right, Gary has produced tracks for Mel Torme, Tom Jones and the Four Tops, as well as with his own company Picture Perfect Music where he’s produced and written custom music for commercials and TV such as Cosby, Hill St. Blues, Seinfeld, Frazier, Murphy Brown, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Tonight Show and Late Night with David Letterman. Currently, Gary plays regularly with Sugar Ray Rayford, Deanna Bogart and recently with Mama SpanX and we are very happy to have him aboard. He always brings a wealth of talent and experience, and his awesome cooking, to the music!
David Abercrombie- Bass/Vocals David is originally from the deep south, where he played tambourine in his uncle's Gospel group as a kid. At 14 David took up the bass and after three lessons got a gig with a country band. He went on to play in numerous Rock bands in South Carolina and Jacksonville Florida until 1988 when he found his way to L.A. to form a band with fellow Jacksonville musicians. Within a year all had returned home except David, who has been playing with a diverse line-up of L.A. based bands ever since. From the eclectic-roots music of the Sundowners and Shari Puorto's South Bay award-winning blues, to the instrumental funk-fusion of Jungle City, the cool jazz of the Dirty Martinis and the mash-up Funk of A Certain Groove, David has applied his unique, six-string-fretless-bass style and energetic stage presence to a variety of musically hot pockets, adding inescapably slippery grooves and textures. He has performed professionally in eight different countries, including a two month tour of U.S. Army bases in the former Yugoslavia, a stint in Helsinki, Finland and extensive touring around the U.S. South West. avid also designs sound, composes for picture, and works as Musical Director/bassist for the sixty’s era tribute act Aquarius. He makes his home in Pasadena because he likes the trees.