A strategy to conquer America became even more of a necessity after another vault song he dusted off, “I Love What We Make Together,” became a key component of a posthumous 2019 Miles Davis project, Rubberband, that also shot up the charts – this time on the jazz side. This is poignant because it was with Davis that Randy first sprang to international attention. First, Randy was a co-writer and player on the 1981 instrumental “Shout,” the first song to reintroduce Davis after 6 years away with a splashy funky flair. Then Randy was the lyricist and vocalist of the album’s mood-drenched title track, The Man with The Horn, a welcome back tribute to the legend that became a jazz and Quiet Storm radio classic. This was a huge honor because Miles almost never featured vocalists on his projects (the one previous exception being working with singer/songwriter Bob Dorough on the holiday novelty “Blue Xmas”). It was also quite an accomplishment because Hall was only 21 when that album was released by corporate giant Columbia Records.
The 2020 success of “I Love What We Make Together” (originally written with the late Al Jarreau as its intended singer), as well as additional Rubberband songs that feature Lalah Hathaway and Ledisi, all bring Randy back full circle to his roots.
Randy Hall was born April 19, 1958 and raised in the musically rich city of Chicago, Illinois. His first instrument was piano but he switched to the popular rock and jazz-ready electric guitar, initially taking lessons from English guitarist Peter Budd and later African American jazz-rock fusion great Pete Cosey. Intensely passionate about his craft, Randy turned pro at 15 initially working with legends from gospel soul family The Staple Singers in local Chicago venues to the impeccable soul-jazz vocal quintet The Dells in the studio, among others. Randy also played with (and often led) progressive local bands such as Time, Space & Destiny (mentored by Thomas C. Washington, a.k.a. Tom Tom 84 of Earth, Wind & Fire renown), Data and AL7 with other up-and-coming musicians that included bassist Daryl Jones (later a member of Sting’s first all-star band as a solo artist), Richard “Spaceman” Patterson, Robert Irving III and Vince Wilburn Jr. (nephew of Miles Davis and Executor of his estate – Randy’s friend since kindergarten).
Randy Hall studied the finer points of music in a trilogy of institutions: The Berklee School of Music in Boston, Vanderbilt University in Nashville and The Chicago Conservatory of Music. Honing his abilities not just as a player but also as a singer, composer and arranger of rhythm, strings, horns and vocals made him invaluable in his illustrious career that followed.
Right after his tremendous success with Miles Davis on the aforementioned The Man with The Horn, Randy was briefly a member of the highly respected Seattle-launched funk-jazz band Pleasure for the album Give it Up (RCA – 1982)
featuring the Top 30 single “Sending My Love.” A move to Los Angeles and connecting with equally ubiquitous Ray Parker Jr. resulted in Randy being signed to MCA Records for which he recorded two albums: I Belong To You (1984) which garnered the Top 20 R&B hit “I’ve Been Watching You (Jamie’s Girl)” followed by Love You Like a Stranger (1988) which contained the Top 40 single “Slow Starter.” Randy did some live showcases and was featured on the TV programs “Soul Train” and “Solid Gold” but, ultimately, his taste of the spotlight did not pan out the way he would have liked.
Reflecting back on that period, Randy shares, “A&R would not let me play guitar on my songs. I said, ‘Prince and Jesse Johnson are doing it.’ But Louil Silas (the late, great Black Music executive) really restrained a lot of what I wanted to do. I hated that they always wanted to put me out there and promote me as a ‘love man.’ I wanted to sing, play my guitar, rock out and have fun. Ray Parker even tried to intervene on my behalf as my Executive Producer but Jheryl Busby (then Vice President of Black Music at MCA) wasn’t having it.”
“Being an artist is really tough,” Randy continues. “So much is based on relationships at the labels, radio, retail and your fans. To get to the top, it takes an executive powerful enough to champion you all the way…like Clive Davis did for Whitney Houston. There are so many things artists have to go through and I was just tired of it. I’m sure I could have gotten another record deal after MCA…but my father had died and my mother needed help. I had a child and wanted to be a father. It was a crazy period. All of that took me out of ‘Artist Mode’ – a ‘self-ish’ mode which demands that everything has to be about you, your career, the way you look, your image and your songs being smash hits. Once you have a child – and you really want to be the best parent you can be – that attitude and focus has to go because – now – everything is about them.”
Randy was perfectly happy behind the scenes working as a member of the touring band of Ray Parker Jr. (who’s schedule was always reasonable), collaborating with unsung producer/writer Raymond Jones for songs in Spike Lee’s films “Clockers” and “Get On The Bus” as well as “Soul Men” (which starred Bernie Mac, Samuel L. Jackson and Isaac Hayes). He also collaborated with Nick Mundy on projects for soul-pop star Jefferey Osborne, mentoring singer/songwriter Nina Storey (including playing onstage with her at the infamous “Woodstock `94”) and young gun blues guitar slinger Jonny Lang, scoring the dramatic television series “Dawson’s Creek,” working at Death Row Records with Kevyn Lewis (Ramsey Lewis’ son) and contributing to recordings by artists ranging from TV star turned singer Jasmine Guy, R&B vocal group TROOP and west coast rap icons Snoop Dogg & Nate Dogg to legendary divas Roberta Flack and “The Boss” Diana Ross.
Most recently, Randy earned top dollar in salary AND tips as half of the Las Vegas strip attraction Cool Change in partnership with singer/songwriter Joe Esposito, playing all of the big rooms from Caesar’s Palace and The Bellagio to The Venetian. “It’s good as a musician if you have an everyday gig,” Randy explains. “In Cool Change, Joe and I sang everything from old school Temptations, Four Tops and Delfonics to BLACKstreet’s ‘No Diggity.’ I made the tracks even funkier than the originals, so when we kicked `em in the casinos’ state of the art sound systems, we blew audiences’ minds! At our peak, we worked 6 nights a week. We later cut back to 4 but also did corporate gigs and worked overseas. All of that work I did behind the scenes enabled my kids to grow up in a nice house, put them through college and gave us a sweet bank account.”
“So, I didn’t really miss being a so-called ‘solo artist,’” Randy concludes. “But now that my kids are grown and successful, it’s the perfect time for me to try this once again – relaxed and strictly on my own terms. I am pleasantly surprised and grateful for all that has transpired over the last year. I look forward to showing the world who I truly am as an artist with my upcoming album of all new material – composed and produced with the full 360-degreee perspective of who I am now.”