Nigel Hall has spent the last decade or so backing some of the starriest names in the music business. Now, he is stepping into the foreground.
With the release of his first solo-led album – appropriately titled "Ladies & Gentlemen...Nigel Hall" on the Feel Music/Round Hill label – the Washington, D.C., native and current French Quarter resident has graduated from sideman to leadman. A sought-after studio keyboardist, his new album allows him to display his gifts as a singer, wrapped up in the funktastic sound that's always been his signature style.
You can catch Hall when he plays a record release show Dec. 2 at Tipitina's. Call it the New Orleans complement to similar roll-out shows in New York City and elsewhere, marking his emergence into the big-time while reasserting his allegiance to a classic slab of pop-soul-bluesy repertoire.
"I don't listen to any music made before 1940-ish, and don't go past 1983," Hall, 34, declared unabashedly during a recent interview. Actually, "unabashedly" doesn't quite cover his feelings on the subject. "Music is just such ---- now," he said, inserting a tersely expressive epithet, though a moment later he conceded that "there are some things coming out now that are really good."
Now, if this makes Hall come off as excessively dismissive – well, consider that up to now he's been conspicuous for his generous, if under-the-radar, musical partnerships. Before moving to New Orleans three years ago, he spent a chunk of time living in New York City – a place where expression doesn't quite keep up with expenses.
"I got really tired of New York," he said, adding that "I was over the whole image thing. There were just a lot of things that were annoying me. Part of it was this record sitting on the shelf for a little while. I said, 'I have a lot of friends in New Orleans; maybe I can go down and do something with myself. And I did."
When Hall says "a little while," he means five years' worth of percolating as songs and potential collaborators gradually came into creative focus.
He fully recognizes, the imperative to succeed as a leader. "It's my band, so the pressure is on me to show up."
Success, Hall acknowledged, stems from mutual respect, from "my being fans of them and also them being fans of me."
The goal, he said, was "to make a record that was soul music – the pop music of yesteryear. I wanted to do an album that did not represent what was out there today. I think in order to know where you're going, you have to know where you've been.
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