As I wrote in my piece last week about Allen Toussaint, I prepared for a trip to New Orleans earlier this year by delving into the music of the Crescent City. A playlist I created has since ballooned to nearly 1,000 songs. My newest addition is keyboardist Nigel Hall, whose debut, Ladies & Gentlemen… Nigel Hall, was released last week. And if there’s any justice, I look forward to adding many more songs by him in the future.
Hall’s been paying his dues as a sideman and studio musician with an impressive array of names in the jam band world, like Warren Haynes, Roosevelt Collier and Eric Krasno’s bands, Soulive and Lettuce. But don’t let that fool you, because none of the songs are under six minutes. Still, with those credentials, it’s unsurprising to find that he has an exceptional command of jazz-inflected old-school R&B and funk.
How old-school is he? The first song, “Gimme a Sign,” features an electric sitar, while breezy horns accentuate ”Never Gonna Let You Go.” His preferred keyboard sounds are the Hammond organ and a Fender Rhodes. The expected touchstones are present: the greasy funk of the Meters (“Don’t Change for Me,” “Hang It Up,”), some Isley Brothers slow jams (“Too Sweet,” “Call on Me”) and, especially in Hall’s excellent vocals throughout the record, Stevie Wonder.
The album was produced by Krasno, who brought in a couple of his Soulive and Lettuce bandmates to help out. ?uestlove and Ivan Neville join in on a take of the Isleys’ “Lay Away,” one of four covers on the record, with the others being Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand the Rain,” Ramp’s “Try, Try, Try” and Latimore’s “Let’s Straighten It Out.”