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Nigel Hall – A Man of Funk ‘n Soul

30th November 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

One listen to Nigel Hall’s debut release, Ladies & Gentlemen…Nigel Hall, and it becomes obvious that the keyboardist and vocalist is way hip to the inner workings of soul and funk. The Washington, D.C. native and New Orleans resident since 2013, who performs at Tipitina’s on Wednesday, December 3, brings his knowledge and love of the genres to his original material as well as his choice of well-executed cover tunes.

“You’re going to love it because I love,” declares Hall, a passionate artist and record collector, of the gig at Tip’s. He’ll be joined by some great, like-minded musicians – his “working band” – including guitarist/vocalist Derwin “Big D” Perkins, drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross, guitarist Andrew Block, bassist Eric Vogel, trumpeter Eric “Benny” Bloom and saxophonist Chris Royal. Hall has worked with all of these guys in different configurations, notably with Big D as an “honorary” member of pianist/vocalist Jon Cleary’s Monster Gentlemen and Bloom in the group Lettuce.

When asked if Ross, who is equally talented behind the trap set and at the microphone, was going to sing, Hall was quick to answer. “Jamison will sing background. He’s not gonna steal my show,” he replied with a laugh. “We do totally different things but we have such an agreement on music and life. That’s my ace.”

At Wednesday’s record release party, the night will naturally be full of the material – plus a “Message to the Meters” segment — on the disc. And it’s a killer album from the top with Hall’s self-penned, soulful, dance-ready gem, “Gimme a Sign,” to the softer, dreamy original “Call on Me” on which Hall skillfully employs his falsetto.Nigel-Hall---Ladies-and-Gen

Though these songs, as well as others of Hall’s composition like “Never Let You Go” are brand new, they immediately feel like old friends.

“It’s familiar, it’s like a warm hug,” Hall explains of this instant connection. “That’s what music is supposed to do. If it (a composition) doesn’t give me goose bumps by the time I’m done with it then I can’t f**k with it and I won’t let you hear it,” Hall says. “All the records I that have in my collection do that to me. At some point in the record, it gives me goose bumps. I need that feeling to be inspired.”

Hall digs deep into his record collection to come up with some tasty and varied material. “I have the Library of Congress,” Hall jokes of the vastness of the recordings he’s gathered. “The vinyl is mostly jazz, soul, a lot of funk and a lot of soundtracks,” he says, explaining that he acquired many from his relatives as well as “raiding” junk and second hand stores. “I’m a movie buff too and those (the soundtracks) are the best thing about movies. “As a kid, I would put my tape deck next to the TV and record them – dialogue and everything.”

It was Ivan Neville who suggested the Isley Brothers’ funk kicker “Lay Away,” be the tune for his guest appearance on the CD on which he contributes organ and vocals. “It’s always been one of my favorite records,” says Hall of the selection of the Isleys’ tune from their 1972 album, Brother, Brother, Brother. Also coming in for the cut is the mighty drummer, ?uestlove, a fellow record collector and DJ who lays down the funk with the notorious Roots band. Nick Daniels, of Dumpstaphunk fame, leaves his bass at home simply adding his great vocals to this solid version of the tune. The funk brotherhood of Hall, Ivan Neville and Daniels also play together in the group Dr. Klaw.

Hall absolutely believes that soul is making a resurgence on the scene today with bands like Lettuce and Soulive appearing regularly on the festival circuit.

“I feel like it was trying to happen when the whole neo-soul thing came out with Erykah Badu and D’Angelo. There was a time when it was happening but people weren’t ready for it. But I feel like people are at this place where they can welcome it back into their lives and their livelihoods. The challenge is reaching another generation. In New Orleans the tradition and heritage is kept alive no matter what is going on in the world. I think that needs to come to all music.”

The essential core of soul music can be found within Ladies & Gentleman…Nigel Hall. Most tunes run in that historic distinctive three to four minute time frame.

“There was a formula that soul music was based upon,” Hall explains. “That was pop music music back then. That was music mainly made for radio. The greatest songs in the world are 2:30 minutes long.”

Also crucial to Hall and to soul fans are lyrics that they can connect to and a rhythm they can dance to. He’s a screamer too, a talent that some would consider an essential in soul music.

“I need to be able to play a song that I can relate to with words that I can relate to,” Hall says. “ It’s got to groove and it’s got to flow – everything is moving naturally.”

Funk and soul are kissin’ cousins though laughingly, Hall takes it one step further, calling their relationship “total incest.” Let’s put it this way, it’s a happy family that he enthusiastically celebrates with great joy on the album.

“The music will never lie to you,” Hall proclaims. “Music is like mathematics, one plus one is always two all the time, all the time. It all adds up. New Orleans is soul music – it all started here. This is where the understanding of it is.”

Nigel Hall boasts an old-school heart and sound. He’s got it in him.

“I’m only 34, I was born 1981 and I act like I was there {in the 1960s and ‘70s} the whole time. People are like, ‘Yo, I wanna see your birth certificate.’”

This article originally published in the November 30, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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