Meet the Band
NEIL DONELL • LEAD VOCALS
CANADA'S MOST RECORDED VOICE
"You blew me away!" These were the words of internationally renowned music producer David Foster when he first heard Neil Donell perform at Toronto's legendary Club Bluenote in the eighties. High praise indeed, yet such accolades are commonplace for this highly respected and sought-after singer.
Originally hailing from Montreal, Neil has gone on to establish himself as the premier session vocalist in Canada. A veteran of more than ten thousand recording sessions, this multiple Juno Award nominee is often referred to in the media as "the most recorded voice in the country," and is introduced as "the man of a thousand voices" at the dozens of pop symphony concerts he performs annually across North America.
Possessed of an uncanny ability for mimicry, and with better than four octaves at his disposal, he has, over the years, been called upon to reproduce the voices of literally hundreds of other artists -- his repertoire spanning Bolton to Bennett to Bocelli and everyone in between -- all the while moving effortlessly between virtually every musical genre. An accomplished songwriter, producer, vocal coach and arranger, Neil makes his home in Toronto, Canada.
TONY CARLUCCI • TRUMPET
VETERAN STUDIO MUSICIAN + BAND LEADER
Tony Carlucci's musical career started when his father introduced him to the trumpet. He was nine. By the age of eleven, he was playing in weekend bands and studying under Canada's premier trumpet teacher, Dr. Don Johnson. By fifteen, Tony was a regular in Toronto's music theater scene, performing in such shows as "West Side Story," "The Pajama Game" and "A little Night Music," and held a chair in Canada's Youth Orchestra.
At age 22, Tony landed his first musical director job for New Zealand's top show singer, Frankie Stevens, touring Canada's top show rooms for six months.
Working regularly on the CBC Television Network in the eighties, Tony played with such artist as Corey Hart, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Frozen Ghost, Percy Sledge, the Drifters, Sam and Dave, the Spoons, Zappacosta, Rita McNeil, Don Rickles and Paul Anka.
In 1989, Tony started his own group, Synthetic Earth, and began composing music. The group was runner up in the Hennessy Jazz Search in Los Angeles that year. His Amarosa Music production company provides live and original recorded music for large corporate functions worldwide, including exotic destinations like Thailand and Hong Kong.
DON BREITHAUPT • KEYBOARDS + BACKING VOCALS
EMMY AWARD WINNER, THREE-TIME SOCAN AWARD WINNER
Emmy Award winner Don Breithaupt grew up surrounded by music: jazz from his piano-playing father; classical from his soprano mother; rock, funk and soul from the world around him. He took up piano, and in his twenties attended Berklee College of Music on full scholarship with a major in Composition/Arranging. Returning to Toronto, he became an in-demand sideman, over the years accompanying Aretha Franklin, Sam Moore, the Drifters, Sass Jordan, Kim Mitchell, Rik Emmett and many more. In addition to a 2009 Emmy for Outstanding Orginal Song (6teen), his career in television has yielded three SOCAN Awards, and, most recently, a Gemini Award nomination for Best Original Score, Animated. He was shortlisted for the 2010 Fred Ebb Award for Musical Theatre Songwriting, is a ten-time nominee at the Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, has co-written three songs nominated for Juno Awards, and won the 2010 jazz category of the USA Songwriting Competition.
His musical, Seeing Stars, had a sold-out run in New York City in 2009. He has authored three books: Precious and Few: Pop Music in the Early Seventies (St. Martin's), Night Moves: Pop Music in the Late Seventies (St. Martin's), and Steely Dan's Aja (Continuum), volume 46 of the popular 33-1/3 series on classic rock albums. His songs have been recorded and/or performed by James Naughton, Kelli O'Hara, Carolyn Leonhart, LaChanze, Brent Carver, Kate McGarry, Marc Jordan, Sarah Slean, Wendy Lands and Alfie Zappacosta. His Breithaupt Brothers Songbook revues (with lyricist brother Jeff) attract full houses annually in NYC and Toronto. He recently completed work on his fourth Monkey House album, Headquarters, which features guest appearances by members of Steely Dan, Boz Scaggs and the Pat Metheny Group.
PAUL DELONG • DRUMS
JUNO AWARD WINNER, JAZZ EDUCATOR
Best known for his multi-platinum success with rock artist Kim Mitchell, Paul DeLong has forged a career which encompasses funk, fusion, jazz and Latin music, working with such diverse artists as Tom Scott, Domenic Troiano, David Blamires, Lawrence Gowan, Carlos Del Junco, Carol Welsman, Dave Restivo, Nick "Brownman" Ali, Colm Wilkinson, Doug Riley, Hilario Duran, David Clayton-Thomas, Roger Hodgson and the Canadian Tenors, to name a few.
As a Juno Award winner and respected session player, Paul has performed at P.I.T. and the N.A.M.M. shows in Los Angeles, the Montreal Drumfest and the Cape Breton Drumfest. He is one of SABIAN Cymbals' most popular and effective clinicians.
Paul has taught at Humber College in Toronto for the past 24 years, and is a regular contributor to Modern Drummer magazine. He also taught and performed at KOSA 2010. His book "'DeLong Way' to Polyrhythmic Creativity on the Drumset" is distributed worldwide by Hudson Ltd.
DOUG GIBSON • TROMBONE
LOW BRASS SPECIALIST
Born in Toronto, Doug Gibson starting playing the trombone at the age of 12. He was exposed to a wide variety of music early in his playing career, and quickly became a fan of the group Chicago, especially, James Pankow. "Pankow has the greatest commercial trombone sound in the world," says Doug.
He went on to study music at Humber College, where he also took up the bass trombone. Subsequently, Doug became a regular studio call in Toronto, and has since performed on an long string of albums and national jingles.
He also is a very proficient pit orchestra musician and has done theatrical productions including "The Secret Garden," "Legally Blonde," "The Sound Of Music," "Dirty Dancing," "Spamalot" and Martin Short's acclaimed one-man show.
Other artists with whom Doug has performed include Hugh Jackman, Jeff Beck, Barry Manilow, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Paul Anka, Lighthouse and David Clayton-Thomas.
BOB McALPINE • GUITAR + BACKING VOCALS
VERSATILE VETERAN ROCKER
Bob McAlpine has been an in-demand session player and "go-to" guitar man on the Toronto music scene for many years. His playing has been heard on scores of albums, television shows and jingles. He has actively conducted guitar workshops and clinics, and has written guitar columns for Canadian Musician magazine. Bob's versatility and sight-reading skills have landed him work with such diverse artists as David Clayton-Thomas (2005-present), Roger Whittaker (2005 tour), Gowan (Strange Animal/Criminal Mind tour 1985-86), Rik Emmett, The Canadian Idol House Band, A Foot In Coldwater, Rich Little, Joan Rivers, Shirley MacLaine, and a host of R&B stars including Ben E. King, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, the Chambers Brothers, Freda Payne and Little Anthony and the Imperials. He was also a regular in the pit for the Toronto productions of "Hairspray," "Rock Of Ages" and the Queen musical "We Will Rock You," where he subbed for both guitar players and thereby had the honour of playing every Brian May solo and harmony part in the show.
Bob released his first solo CD in 2009 ("Only A Fool Would Play That," a collection of Steely Dan songs performed on solo guitar), which marked his debut in the genre of fingerstyle guitar. His second solo CD ("Energy Over Distance" - 2014) features Bob playing original songs he has written for solo acoustic guitar. His performance of 3 of these songs at the Canadian Guitar Festival won him the title of 2014 Canadian Guitar Fingerstyle Champion..
PHIL POPPA • SAXOPHONES + BACKING VOCALS
Since playing his first paying gig at the age of 15, Phil Poppa has been lucky enough to be an active musician for the last 35 years. First starting out on clarinet in seventh grade, Phil began aquiring instruments throughout his life and career to the point where he now is hired to perform on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxes as well as flute and Wind Synth. In fact, Phil played all those instruments on his recent CD "What You See is What You Get," as well as singing lead and background vocals. His CD was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2009 Canadian Smooth Jazz Awards, and Phil was nominated for Wind Instrumentalist of The Year. Phil has been active in the Toronto studio scene, playing on numerous jingles and TV and radio shows, and albums. As well as being a member of such notable bands as the Spoons and Bamboo, Phil has also performed with the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Glass Tiger, Zappacosta, the Partland Brothers, Frozen Ghost, Bob Hope, Dinah Christie and many more. Along with Tony Carlucci and Michael Massaro, Phil formed the hot horn section known as The "Whorns of Babylon" which performed with many of the artists above as well as local R&B legends like George Oliver, Reflections and Soul Foundation.
While following his muse, Phil has had the privilege of traveling the world in various musical ensembles (most recently to Hong Kong and Bangkok as a member of the Tony Carlucci Orchestra, previously on tours of Europe and the Middle East for the Canadian Government). Phil is currently developing material for his next solo album.
JAY SPEZIALE • BASS + BACKING VOCALS
RHYTHM + BLUES MASTER
A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Jay Speziale fell in love with music at the age of six. After years of accordion instruction, Jay "couldn't take it any more," and talked his dad into letting him take drum lessons. After a stint in a local marching band, and yet another instrumental switch (this time to bass), Jay started a small ensemble of musicians and learned all the music of -- shades of things to come! -- Chicago, Lighthouse, Blood, Sweat & Tears and Sly and the Family Stone.
Jay moved to Toronto in 1977, and began his full-time playing career in earnest. He co-founded the acclaimed R&B band Backstreet in 1985, and played with sixties greats Billy J. Kramer, Lou Christie, Del Shannon, the Mamas and the Papas, Peter Noone, Ben E. King, the Marvelettes, Leslie Gore, the Drifters, the Platters and Tommy Roe.
After Backstreet disbanded in 1997, Jay toured with multi- platinum rock vocalist Sass Jordan for several years. A busy freelancer live and in studios nationwide, Jay finds great satisfaction in his membership in Brass Transit: "I find it amazing that my life has come full circle. Here I am playing the very music that made me want to play music in the first place. Fantastic!"