Many bands Field prolific sax player

By Bob Young, Boston Herald, Friday, July 1, 2005

Ken Field has no problem connecting the dots between "Sesame Street" and the reform school where James Brown did time for breaking into cars.

"They're actually not that far apart in terms of some of the sounds I've created," said the Hub-based saxophonist.

What Field means by "not that far apart" is that he has composed, produced and performed on soundtracks for "Sesame Street" and is currently part of a band that takes its name and inspiration from the Alto Reform School, the lockup where Brown formed a group that would become his Famous Flames.

The Alto Reform School band features three female vocalists, including founder Betsy Nichols. It performs covers of '70s r & b tunes by the likes of Millie Jackson, the Commodores and, of course, Brown. The band appears tonight at Johnny D's in Somerville.

"I grew up in New Jersey with a lot of this (music)," said Field. "My family didn't have a TV set, but I listened to AM radio and heard a lot of really good stuff."

Field is one of Boston's true Renaissance music men. He's a full-time member of six bands, including Birdsongs of the Mesozoic and the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, which performs a benefit concert for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute on July 15 at the Middle East in Cambridge.

He's a sometime member of another half-dozen groups, including Willie "Loco" Alexander's Persistance of Memory Orchestra and the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, with which he'll play Tuesdays in late July at Harry's in Hyannis.

"Much of what I do isn't commercial," acknowledged Field. "It tends to be left of center."

Ken Field and the Alto Reform School appear tonight at Johnny D's, Somerville, with the Bad Saints. Go to or call 617-776-2004.