Arizona Super Group “Mike Breen and the Big Dream” to Headline
Zonal Music Group 7th Annual Christmas Showcase and Benefit

By Mariah Fleming

Mike Breen

Start your December partying early at what promises to be an exceptionally entertaining musical event, the Zonal Music Group 7th Annual Christmas Showcase and Benefit at Pranksters Too in Scottsdale. On Saturday December 15, ZMG hosts a back-to-back lineup of excellent live music beginning at 6:15pm for only $10. The impressive showcase leads up to the new CD release party for nationally known Arizona favorite Mike Breen. Breen was honored as Artist of the Week in Alternate Root Magazine this September. Songs from his newest CD “All Night Long” will be performed by the headline act, super group Mike Breen and the Big Dream.

Breen describes his music as “Acoustic Americana with an Arizona Texture.” It’s a perfect description of this group of six veteran Arizona musicians who have worked nationally and internationally with many of the biggest names in contemporary music. “Mike Breen and the Big Dream is my core band, the guys I play with whenever there’s a concert gig.” Breen explained. “We don’t often get to do these things in a concert setting, so we’re really looking forward to this!” Breen has known and played with the members of Mike Breen and the Big Dream Band for many years. Breen and each musician in the band (Ken Skaggs, Russell Skaggs, Mickey McGee, Billy Parker and Mike Cirillo) bring to the stage stellar reputations as some of the best musicians around, no contest.

Ken Skaggs and his brother Russell Skaggs both toured with Glen Campbell for many years, among other things. Prior to that they were involved in legendary Arizona groups like “The Normal Brothers” and “The Two Week Notice Band.” The Skaggs brothers are both very well known, highly accomplished musicians. Ken plays pedal steel, lap steel, mandolin and guitar; Russ plays acoustic and electric bass, and they both sing. That just taps the surface of what these two can do. Mickey McGee, who’ll be playing percussion on ‘Cajon’ (an instrument described by Breen as “the little box drummers sit on and play with their hands”) has played with Linda Ronstadt, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Michael Dinner, Ricky Nelsonand everybody who’s anybody in Los Angeles” Breen explained.

Billy Parker, who plays mandolin in the band, grew up playing bluegrass music on the east coast. He moved to Arizona a long time ago. Breen describes Parker as “The all star mandolin player in Arizona who’s played in a bunch of famous bluegrass bands and is called by everybody to work!” Breen said that he was privileged to meet Parker through Kyle Harris, owner of Arizona’s Playr Recording, when Parker was brought in to play on Breen’s 1996 CD “No Excuses.” Playing fiddle in Mike Breen and the Big Dream is Mike Cirillo, who Breen met at the old Red River Opry in the early 1990’s, when it was a thriving venue featuring Branson style country music shows. “Mike is so smart. He’s one of these guys who is just mind blowing!” says Breen. “Mike Cirillo is one of the best fiddle players I’ve ever known!” he declared. Judging by Cirillo’s reviews, everyone agrees.

Mike Breen

When asked why Breen chose to do a CD release party for Zonal Music Group he said he’d seen Ronnie Glover playing at Pranksters Too, and found out about the showcases of original music Rick Wall was doing at Pranksters. “I heard that Rick (Wall) was booking original music, and that’s so great. I found out that he’s been doing this for a long time, and that he knows a lot of musicians. He’s been bringing in some great people. So I contacted him and said: “Hey, can I send you a CD? And if you like it can I do a show down there?” In addition to songs from Breen’s new CD, it’s likely that, with the fantastic players in Mike Breen and the Big Dream, given the great variety of music between the musicians in the group, there will be some ‘don’t miss’ musical surprises in store.

It’s going to be a full night of terrific music. Prior to Mike Breen and the Big Dream at 11pm, the evening will feature a special appearance at 10pm by Tucson’s Namoli Brennet, who has played the ZMG showcase many times to rousing receptions. Brennet is an exquisitely gifted songwriter and singer who is rapidly becoming a national name. She is constantly touring nationwide, so the opportunity to catch her at the showcase may be the last time to see her perform in Arizona for quite awhile. Brennet is also bringing her new CD to the show, and will perform songs from her newest CD in addition to crowd pleasers from her previous CD’s.

The talented and entertaining Darin Mahoney takes the stage at 9pm with a set that includes many friends and musical surprises. At 8pm The Hope Ladder Duo comes onstage with David Bryan Cook and Graham “Dr. Slide” Benike, featuring great songs and a fine, unique stage presence. Benike’s slide guitar alone is something to behold, and together, the group is always a crowd pleaser.

Setting the tone for a big night of variety, an instrumental set begins at 7pm with popular flutist Sherry Finzer. Rick Wall describes flutist Finzer as a delightful talent and says he expects at least one surprise guest to join her onstage for a more up-tempo, cut loose side to the flute. “Think Aqua Lung!” he says. Opening the show at 6:15pm, Caitlin Slattery has played several times for the showcase. “Caitlin sings great songs, has a great voice, always entertains and plays from the heart. She’s a popular act, and definitely a fine up & comer.” says Wall. “I always save the 6:15pm slot for the finest new original acts I can find, giving them the opportunity to be heard and enjoyed. There are just so many new artists who are really talented.

Rick Wall’s Zonal Music Group has been producing concerts in Arizona since 1999. Wall is passionate about music, especially about providing a showcase for original music. “I’m not a musician myself, but I just love original music!” he said, “and I respect the amazing amount of talent out there that’s coming up with great original stuff! They deserve to be heard.” Wall has been producing shows in Arizona since the 1970’s. Prior to Zonal Music Group he had Off the Wall Productions, which brought talent to former venues like The Mason Jar, Chuy's, Friar Tucks, Merlin’s, “and nine or ten incredible venues that were around in those days. They were venues for great music from out of town that blended with great local music.” Wall explained.

Admission to the Zonal Music 7th Annual Christmas Showcase and Benefit show is $10 at the door. All proceeds go to the musicians, and to ZMG supported charities including St Mary’s Food Bank. For more information go to