Category Archives: Nigel Hall

Funky Firsts: Andre’s Look Back On Key Moments Of Putting The Grooves On His Record Racks

Reading the autobiography of Amir Questlove Thompson entitled Mo Meta Blues has been very inspirational to the way in which I present my blog. Especially in the fact the book presents interstitial chapters between the main ones. These shorter chapters illustrate classic funk and soul albums Questlove heard growing up. As well as how they intertwined with different events in his personal life. This has long had me brainstorming about a similar concept as to how this music has been involved with my own life story.

There’s no particular rhythm or reason here. This isn’t a list of all of my first exposures to specific artists. Nor is it just musical events that personally impacted me. It includes both,yet what I’m focusing on here is all about the synergy of life and this particular art form and how it effected my outlook on music. All the way up to this blog here. There’s going to be a mixture of different stories and emotions here. And of course some important things might not get covered-possibly to be done as they come back to mind on another,similar post. But for now? Enjoy these stories!

First Album I Purchased On Cassette Tape

Music Of My Mind

I’d been listening to Stevie Wonder for many years before this. But I was deep into a literary research through the All Music Guide and read a description of this album as being Wonder’s first artistic breakthrough but that compared to what came after quote on quote “it paled just slightly”. Often times writing can cloud a music’s listener’s judgement on the auditory musical experience. At the time however? That’s exactly how I felt about this album. Musically my tastes and understanding had to grow into this album,rather than the album accommodate me.

First Album I Purchased On CD

The Jacksons

Actually this is by no means the first CD I ever owned. But it was the first one I purchased with my own money. 1994-1995 was ‘the year of the Jackson’s’ as it were for my life. The story of how the brothers signed to Epic Records to gain creative control was really fascinating me,something I was feeling inwardly as an artistic adolescent. So one day I was browsing the old Strawberries Records with my friend Joseph Stone and came across this album for $9.99. That’s just what I had in my wallet. For the next few weeks? Felt like “Think Happy”,”Show You The Way To Go”,”Enjoy Yourself”,”Living Together” and “Style Of Life” were the only songs I wanted to hear. And all were (and still are) very positively effecting on my day to day life.

First New Music I Purchased Through A Record Club

Isley Brothers Mission To Please

Turns out in writing this? I discovered several important musical firsts for me in the year 1996. While an active member of the BMG Record Club? They offered a featured selection that,if purchased at full price,would allow you to get a number of free CD’s.  This was one of them. I was reading a lot about the Isley Brother’s in Rickey Vincent’s book Funk at the time. And his description of the Isley’s as “the epitome of funky manhood” made this an easy choice. At the time? I was not keen on contemporary R&B at all. But something about the vibe R.Kelly created for this album is still appealing to me.

First Album Recommended To Me

Travelling Without Moving

Technically it was my mother who ended up purchasing this album. But I remember she and I had taken a rather long bike ride to Strawberries. And ran into a friendly young sales associate named Jeb. We got into a conversation about P-Funk and George Clinton. He mentioned in the conversation that a new band who were in a similar funk vein were Jamiroquai. And this was their newest album out. At the time I didn’t see how this had any resemblance to P-Funk at all. Of course I had yet to hear The Electric Spanking Of War Babies. Still as a channeling of psychedelia with the live instrumental boogie funk sound began a continuing interest in newly recorded funk music.

First Multi Album Set I Ever Had

Emancipation

1996-1997 was when I was seeking out any and all things Prince related. From his own music to his famous (and infamous) protegee’s. Seeing Prince and than wife Mayte on Oprah performing songs from this album,talking about his art and life,went right along with the appeal of this album. It is such a sprawling 3 CD set that,to this very day,I have yet to have heard the entire album. Something that I intend to change in the very near future.

First Piece Of Used Vinyl I Remember Purchasing

Earth, Wind & Fire - Faces

When Dr. Records was still in it’s original basement location in the college town of Orono,Maine? I remember having $5 dollars in my pocket and seeing this album on vinyl-yet again at just the right price. Had been collecting EWF’s 70’s classic on cassette tape already and was at this point upgrading to CD’s. This one was a bit expensive for me at the time. But the vinyl of this album was a different story. On the way home from the store? I remember feeling the raised gold letters of the bands name on the cover,and staring at the random photographs of people on the inner sleeve-not to mention the members of the band members and the Phenix Horns,which were proudly stated on the vinyl sleeves. The happiest surprise was to get home to find the album also contained the original poster of the band in full EWF regalia. Still have the poster,later picked up the CD but none of it eclipses the excitement of that 15 minute car ride home from picking this up as a vinyl album. Almost a brief history in how a classic funk band presents itself.

First CD I Purchased After The New Millennia

Alicia Keys

After the arrival of the year 2000,in those 500 or so days between then and 9/11? I kept feeling like the world of futurism was just about ready to happen. Flying electric cars,sustainable ergonomic homes,all of it. Another exciting event during the winter and spring of 2001 was seeing the face of this 19 year old singer/songwriter/musician from NYC who was about to break out almost exactly the same manner as Whitney Houston had, with Clive Davis and the whole deal. In all honesty? The albums contents were so far removed from my musical journey at that time,it didn’t quite live up it’s hype for me. In a lot of ways it still doesn’t.  But it succeeded in whetting my musical appetite for a promising new and popular musician. Something that was extremely rare in an era saturated with performers.

First CD I Purchased Online

Imagination Body Talk

Even at the time,the years 2002-2003 were weary and sad times with the dashed hopes of the immediate post 9/11 era. Interestingly enough,this was a time when I began exploring psychedelic 60’s classic rock and fusion more as well. The roots of this discovery was when I heard the song “Flashback” on a compilation belonging to my families late friend Janie Galvin called Pure Disco. It was by a British trio called Imagination. Loved the songs stripped down electronic groove. But it was when I’d just gotten online for the first time at the local public library computer.  Discovered that this album was kind of famous in post disco circles. My quest to order a CD copy led me to sign up for my first checking account so I could get a used copy off of Amazon. Body Talk turned out to be an excellent album. And was also the beginning of the end of my days as a member of the already fading mail order record clubs.

Biggest Surprise I Discovered In A Used Vinyl Record Store

Ghetto Blaster

It was on a ride home with my father after purchasing our first Toyota that I first heard the Crusaders. It was actually my first exposure to a complete jazz-funk band. One day I was crate digging at a now defunct record shop in Camden Maine called Wild Rufus. And there was this album for a dollar. On the back,it had a photo of Leon Ndugu Chancler with the band rather than Stix Hooper. Was deep into Ndugu at the time with my involvement with DJ/musician Nigel Hall,and our mutual interest in 70’s George Duke. So that actually peaked my interest as well. I had no idea the Crusaders were making records in the mid 80’s. So hearing them with a more synthesizer driven electro funk style was a very happy surprise for me,and probably my turntable as well.

First CD I Reviewed Online

Parliament (1978) - Motor Booty Affair (A)

For reasons that I don’t fully understand? Amazon.com forced me to create a totally new account with them when I couldn’t remember the password to my first one. So the reviews on that first profile are still floating around out there. So this is only my first Amazon review on this new account,the one I continue to use up to this very day. I remember posting the review on December 3rd,2004. That was also around the same time my family got it’s first PC,a Toshiba laptop to be specific. So this was also my first time dealing with that computers joint Windows account system

Link to original Motor Booty Affair review here*

First Time Hearing Questlove As A Producer

Al Green Lay It Down

Now the main reason I’m talking about this is because Questlove’s writing directly inspired this blog post. Prior to 2008? I knew of Amir not by name,or nickname. Only as the guy with the pick in his fro who drummed for The Roots. And I felt a lot of their music was rather bland for my personal tastes at the time. When my friend Henrique told me this man,named Questlove,was producing a comeback album for Al Green? I was skeptical. What I didn’t know was that Questlove was a session drummer at heart. And rather then make his own record here? He produced a total Al Green record-directly in the Willie Mitchell mold.  This significantly broadened my admiration and respect for Questlove. And for that matter other hip-hop live instrumentalists/producers who could tailor make records for iconic artists they respected and admired.

First Funny Music Buying Twist Of Fate

Rufus Stompin At The Savvoy

This could be a very long story. But it still makes me laugh at the absurdity of it all so will endeavor to condense it. 18 or so years ago when I was first getting into Rufus & Chaka Khan? I kept noticing this double CD on sale at Borders Books & Music in Bangor. With it’s $30 dollar price tag? I never gave it any thought,knowing only it was essentially a live album from the early 80’s. While that store always shuffled stock? This CD remained there at this same price into the new millennium. Finally in 2011 Borders closed down shop nationally. And all their stock,including CD’s,went on drastic mark down. I went there and bought a lot. Even saw other double CD sets marked down to $15 or less. Sure enough? Still this particular album seemed like the only one that never went on sale even at the bitter end.

Flash forward to about five years later. I’d noticed that this album was commanding prices well upwards in the double digits on Amazon and ebay.  And used no less. So one day a month or so ago while checking the website of my local record store Bullmoose? I noticed one of the stores had a used copy of this CD for under $10. So I picked it up. And as of today it’s one of my very favorite Rufus albums-with powerful live performances and great funk and jazz based studio tracks. So for an album that for almost two decades an album whose pretense in my life seemed to engender either reluctance or regret? A very happy musical experience came out of it in the end.

 


You might notice that the firsts indicated in this blog come primarily out of one spectrum of music. This wasn’t deliberate exactly. During my time online? I noticed many nostalgia based Top 10,20,50 music lists. With all kinds of subtexts. Still most people’s important experiences with music came from awkward moments with their peer group in terms of context. And the music that tends to be part of their journey is invariably punk or alternative rock of some variety. Occasionally even soul,jazz and blues too. And there’s absolutely nothing to be condemned about that. Any way that brings one to the joy of music has great meaning.

This blog actually extends into the very root of this blog. One can browse for info on the funk genre  and it’s offshoot musical children (such as disco and fusion) online. And they will album reviews,songs posted,downloads and a good deal of nostalgic comedy. But both Henrique and myself observed a void. One where there was litttle to no serious,well rounded online journalism on funk to the degree writers such as Rickey Vincent had done in the literary world. My aim with posts such as this is to help give the funk music spectrum the level of analyzation  and respect rock and jazz have received on the internet. And hopefully these personal stories will do so in an enlightening and amusing manner!

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Filed under 1980's, 1990s, 2008, 2015, Al Green, Alicia Keys, Amazon.com, Chaka Khan, classic funk, crate digging, Crusaders, Disco, Earth Wind & Fire, Funk, Fusion, George Clinton, George Duke, Imagination, Isley Brothers, Jamiroquai, Joe Sample, Late 70's Funk, Music Reviewing, Neo Soul, Nigel Hall, Prince, Psychedelia, psychedelic soul, Questlove, R.Kelly, The Roots

Keeping It Live: My Own Experiences Taking Music To The Stage

Get On Up

This past Saturday I picked up and watched the biopic Get On Up,staring Chadwick Boseman  as The Godfather Of Soul himself. My comments on the film itself are something that’ll be dealt with at another time and place. Yet the striking recreations of James Brown’s iconic live performances stood out on another level. It is those performances that made James the icon he became. Everything he did in his music surrounded his dance moves. So much so he took the thinking of many jazz musicians a step further by recording his most powerful funk sides between gigs. That’s also what earned him the nickname,one of many,of The Hardest Working Man In Show Business.

No one in my family,including myself ever had the privilege of beholding James Brown in his onstage domain. Yet my blogging partner and game changing friend Henrique Hopkins did have that opportunity,and in JB’s twilight years as well. The reason I tended to enjoy hearing him repeat the story of how James was still kicking onstage well into his 70’s reminded me of my own significant experiences with live music. While the level of available performances in my own state varies extremely over time? It’s been my honor to see almost a dozen concerts in my lifetime. Note my parents have seen many many more-I simply declined the invitation due to lack of interest in the performing artist(s). These ten performances I’m talking about changed the way I viewed music. So let’s get it started!

Bela Fleck

The first adult concert that I remember attending was with Bela Fleck & The Flecktones at the University Of Maine in Orono,which has been a hotbed of the local music scene in my neck of the woods for decades. The two most striking members of the gypsy jazz/fusion group was the fluid bass player Victor Wooten and his brother who called himself Futureman. He played an instrument called a drumitar-a customized synthesizer guitar that allowed him to created many different levels of rhythm. There was a meet and greet I had with my mother and the other band members after the show. It was my very first time actually speaking with live musicians. The most exciting part of the concert was when Bela himself asked the audience to shout “Yee haw” during the opening bass line of their song “Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo”. A lot of fun for an 11 year old.

OJ Ekemode & His Nigerian All Stars

When I was 12 years old OJ Ekemode and his Nigerian Allstars,an Afro-pop band of some note came to the Grand theater in downtown Ellseworth. Thus far this was my first and only exposure to live world music. The colorful,tribal dances and clothes were more educational than anything I ever learned from a school book about Nigerian culture. The most exciting part was the multi part encore-which came off as a hyper percussive eternal dance. Only problem was that everyone had to remain seated as I recall. The best way to march to the beat of your own drummer is to be able to dance to it.

Medeski Martin & Wood

1996’s summer concert of Medeski,Martin & Wood came during a time when I was deeply exploring the funk music genre in the studio sense. My father introduced me to the talented jazz-funk trio and was exciting about going. He really enjoyed it. However at the time,I found their slow jam band music to be deadly dull compared to the exciting funk coming out of my CD player and turntable from Prince,George Clinton,Bootsy,Cameo and The Bar Kays. A small crowd of what my folks and I affectionately referred to as “Charlie Brown Dancers” up near the stage added a comic bent to it. Though the smell of reefer upfront was pretty thick. My first exposure to jam band culture basically.

Rippopotamus-at-Montreal-Jazz-Festival-1998

A family vacation to the Montreal Jazz Festival of 1998 was exciting to me because we were supposed to go see the falsetto singer Jai,whose album Heaven  was a family favorite at the time. My father got see a number of jazz acts that year. One night we all went to see a funk band called Rippopodamus. They performed a medley of funk classics including The Time’s “Jungle Love”. Not only did this coincide with my interest in the Minneapolis sound at the time,but was the first full on funk concert I ever had a chance to see.

Dr.John

The most thrilling concert experience I had before turning 21 was in the summer of 2000. My family and I were walking around downtown Portland Maine and came across a concert poster saying Dr.John was performing at the State Theater that night. So we decided to go see the show. It was a nice,intimate little club. And the Night Tripper strutted out to his piano playing a grooving remake of Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” from his than current tribute to Duke called Duke Elegant. Hearing “In The Right Place” from the man himself up on the stage is an amazing experience for a great admirer of the funk such as myself.

billybang

My parents had already seen Billy Bang and his band,including the late sax player Frank Lowe,when they both convinced me to see him at another show he did in the town of Waterville in 2002. The show was a recreation of Bang’s album Vietnam: The Aftermath which had just come out. “Saigon Phunk” was the song that had me and my family bopping up and down to the jazz violinists music. There was a meet and greet with the band after the show,which led to an interesting encounter with stand in drummer Michael Carvin. In every way,it was quite a show however.

entertainment-sonny-fortune-half-note-jazz-club

This concert coincided directly with my interest in Miles Davis. My father encouraged me to see Mister Fortune play in Waterville the autumn after seeing Billy Bang with the knowledge he played with Miles during the height of his fusion breakthrough in the mid 1970’s. Fortune played brilliantly. Yet there wasn’t much of a performance involved. More the type of jazz playing that really does lend itself better to audio than the visual element. Still seeing this man was an exciting experience for me in far later hindsight.

NIGEL AND RODERICK

Who you see here are (right) bassist Roderick Pinkney and (left) keyboard player Nigel Hall. In 2004,they were key members of the first local funk band in Bangor Maine called Funkizon. The membership at the time also included guitarists Bill Mayo and Anthony Druin as well as drummer Spencer Nelson. How this local group were significant to my experience with live music was that I saw them nearly every weekend during their 2004 residency at the old Waterfront Bar & Grill on the Bangor waterfront.

I became very much acquainted with all the musicians personally thanks to my father introducing me to Nigel personally,and I’d known Roderick as a childhood chum. They played a mixture of James Brown inspired instrumental originals along with Nigel’s take on George Duke songs such as “Don’t Be Shy” and occasionally Rick James’ “Super Freak”. They also gave me my first experience with concert filming-allowing me to record their shows with my used VHS camcorder. My first and only direct involvement with a live funk band,or any band for that matter.

Janele_Monae_WorkMusicBalance

So far this is probably the most profound live experience I ever had a chance to have. So much so that I actually discussed it in detail on my old blog The Rhythmic Nucleus. She ran through the aisles of the auditorium before her opening act .Fun,went on to do some fancy JB style footwork,danced the Charleston with a group of extraterrestrial clad dancer/band members and sat on a stool playing her acoustic guitar in her tuxedo all at random within her 90 minute or so  long set. It was like watching the last century of black American music come together through a magical musical world!  This eclectic mix of James Brown,P-Funk and Prince in one talented young lady provided the most complete example of the funk I’ve had yet to see.

BBKing

Reason for this even happening at all was a co-worker of my fathers not being able to attend the concert. And giving two tickets to him. He decided to bring me along. Seeing Dickey Betts and The Allman Brothers Band as the opening act was wonderful as well as some of the other acts. And BB’s band,including an amazing horn section,were loose as a goose funky blues. BB himself was clearly nearing the end of his game in terms of his performance ability. But just being able to see the legend and Lucille said all it needed to say.


While there are many live performances that came this way which I didn’t have a chance to see-in particular Ray Charles and Steely Dan? The ten live shows I saw here gave me a fairly well rounded viewpoint on the concert experiences. Honestly? My preferred method of receiving music is through listening to records,in whatever format they are in. At the same time? It’s still fun to imagine being onstage in front of an audience,a mic in front of you with your interested and offering your art live in person for the ears of many.

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Filed under 1990s, BB King, Bela Fleck, Blues, Dr.John, Funk, James Brown, Janelle Monae, Live music, Montreal Jazz Festical, Nigel Hall, Portland Maine, University Of Maine, Victor Wooten