Nigel Hall, leader of his own Nigel Hall Band, has been a valued sideman for years to headliners such as Warren Haynes, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Warren Haynes, John Scofield, Ledisi, Krawlik and, Hall’s uncle, Oteil Burdbrige.
The New Orleans-based singer and keyboardist grew into a band leader by focusing on his prime directive.
“Which is making the music,” Hall said. “Then everything else falls into play. As long as you’re listening to yourself and listening to what everyone else in the band is doing, you can’t go wrong.”
Hall fortuitously knew the catalogs of the performers he’s supported throughout the world long before he worked with them. Again, listening is the key.
“If you’re a musician, your music is a window into your heart, into your soul,” he said. “And if you know someone’s music, especially the way that I like to get to know music, that’s the closest, the most intimate you can get with a person.”
Hall, 34, a native of Washington, D.C., moved from New York’s Harlem to New Orleans in late 2013. Adept in soul music, jam, fusion, funk and rock, he’s one of the many younger musicians who arrived in the years following Hurricane Katrina. He quickly became a member of the city’s music community.
Beyond the Nigel Hall Band and his sideman work, Hall joins his friend singer-keyboardist Jon Cleary most Mondays at the Maple Leaf Bar. He also plays keyboards in the Eric Krasno-led jam-funk band Lettuce.
Hall realized a long-delayed goal with this month’s release of his solo album debut, “Ladies & Gentlemen …Nigel Hall.” It’s a mostly original collection of Motown-based soul, funk and romantic R&B. His record release show is Wednesday, Dec. 2, at Tipitina’s.
A solo album was always in the cards, Hall said.
“Anybody who knows me, they’ll tell you this is something that was bound to happen,” Hall said. “It was just a matter of when.”
The “when” part turned frustrating. Hall and producer Krasno recorded “Ladies & Gentlemen … Nigel Hall” in New York City five years ago.
“This record is old enough now to use the bathroom on its own,” Hall joked. As of Friday, aka Record Store Day, the album will also be available as a vinyl LP.
“I’m glad people finally get to be introduced to it, because it’s a huge fabric of who I am,” Hall said.
The years during which Hall and Krasno unsuccessfully shopped the album yielded a silver lining.
“While it was sitting on the shelf, I’ve gone around the world twice over, playing with my heroes,” Hall said.
In the meantime, a paradox accompanies the album’s belated release.
“I’m taking a step back, but to move forward,” Hall said. The additional years of life and musical growth Hall experienced since he recorded the album also will help him better express the songs and himself.
“Sometimes it’s necessary for one to go through a change of events in order to be ready for the next thing,” he said.
Moving to New Orleans, where he already had many friends, was a great change.
“At the very least, I knew I could always get gigs,” he said. “I know all of the people you need to know to work the way that I want to work.”
And a few weeks after he moved to New Orleans, Hall met the local woman he married a month ago.
“I always knew that I was going to live here,” he said. “I was intrigued with the fact that this is the only place in the world that has an airport named after a musician. And named after a black person. That resonated with me.
“So moving here is the best decision I ever made in my life. This is one place that I need to be. I can’t be anyplace but New Orleans. People are free to do things here, musically and otherwise, that you’re not free to do everywhere else.”