Roosevelt & Nigel’s Gospel Surprise – Purple Hatter’s Ball

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This past weekend the Purple Hatter’s Ball took place at the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park in Live Oak, Florida. One of the performances we most had our eyes on was a Sunday set dubbed “Roosevelt Collier & Nigel Hall’s Gospel Surprise.” Our friend and Collier’s publicist, Margaret Willard, was so moved by the set she penned a review and we’re honored to run it along with photos.

Roosevelt Collier & Nigel Hall’s Gospel Surprise @ Purple Hatter’s Ball – May 12

Words: Margaret Willard
Photos: Timothy Borland and Jeffrey Dupuis

Mother’s Day took special meaning this past weekend at the Purple Hatter’s Ball, when a fellowship of musicians uplifted the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park with an emotional Sunday gospel set dubbed “Roosevelt Collier & Nigel Hall’s Gospel Surprise.”

[Photo by Tim Borland]

PHB founder Paul Levine introduced the ensemble shortly after 1pm, with a prelude dedicating the afternoon to Rachel Morningstar Hoffman, whose life is remembered each year at PHB, and to all others who had lost loved ones recently — most notably Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff of Lettuce, who hadn’t performed for a live audience since he lost his mother Rita April 29. The sun shone brightly as the amphitheater stage transformed into a place of kinship and worship, with Smirnoff and the afternoon’s other special guests Lenesha Randolph (Robert Randolph & The Family Band), Pete Shand (The New Mastersounds), Jermal Watson (Dirty Dozen Brass Band), Jonathan Lloyd (Dubconscious) and The Shady Horns – Ryan Zoidis, Eric Bloom and James Casey(Soulive, Lettuce) all joining Nigel Hall (Warren Haynes Band, Lettuce) and Roosevelt Collier (the Lee Boys) for an inspired series of classic covers and old gospel tunes.

[Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis]

The service lifted off with a church-step cover of Stevie Wonder’s Standing On Shaky Ground, with Hall and Randolph’s powerhouse vocals artfully trading time with the sorrowful song of Collier’s sacred steel. Needless to say there were tearful eyes and smiling faces of both artists and audience alike. Lettuce’s Eric Krasno also joined the celebration on Wade in the Water, followed by drummer Adam Deitch on Higher Ground.

With a just few songs left in the set, Hoffman’s mother, Margie Weiss, took the stage to say a few special words about the memory of her daughter, and to thank Levine and the park for their support of the Rachel Morningstar Foundation. “Together we will end the confidential informant system in our country,” she vowed, adding, “just saying those words gives me chills.” Weiss, Levine and a collection of artists and friends then released 23 butterflies — to represent the 23 years of Hoffman’s life — before the band continued into Frankie Beverly’s Back in Stride, which brought up special guest Erick “Jesus” Coomes of Lettuce.

[Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis]

The hour poignantly ended with Hall, leading what can only be described as a congregation by this point, in a rousing version of You’ve Got a Friend (as arranged by Donny Hathaway in his 1972  live album). “Winter, spring, summer or fall / All you have to do is call / And I’ll be there / You’ve got a friend.” The words rang true, and each person present in that moment gave thanks for the strength of friendship and the universal healing power of music in all of our lives. “I felt a lot of people’s spirits being lifted on this Mother’s Day,” said Collier afterwards. “It was much needed.”

[Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis]

… Let the church say amen.

Set List

Standing on Shaky Ground (Stevie Wonder)

People Get Ready (Curtis Mayfield)

Going Up the Yonder (Walter Hawkins)

Wade in the Water*

Grandma’s Hands (Bill Withers)

Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder)^

He’s An On Time God

Back in Stride (Frankie Beverly)%

You’ve Got a Friend (Carole King)%

* with Eric Krasno

^ with Eric Krasno and Adam Deitch

% with Eric Krasno and Erick “Jesus” Coomes


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3 thoughts on “Roosevelt & Nigel’s Gospel Surprise – Purple Hatter’s Ball

  1. Chris Reply

    it was actually 24 butterflies. 23 for the years of Rachel’s life and 1 more for all our dreams.

  2. Chris Reply

    Anyone have a recording? Sounds like it would have been amazing..

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