Drummer Shannon Powell stands tall in the lineage of New Orleans’ rhythmic giants; he is a torchbearer of the city’s culture and one of the finest drummers in the world. He’s also a great singer, his vocals invoking styles that echo the churches, street parades and jazz clubs of his hometown. Known for his contributions to traditional and modern jazz idioms, having worked with Danny Barker, Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis, Powell is also a veteran of New Orleans' rich rhythm and blues scene having backed up such greats as Snooks Eaglin, Earl King and Dr. John.
Darren Hoffman is a multi-instrumentalist and music producer originally from Miami, Florida. He grew up playing guitar in his youth, greatly influenced by Jimi Hendrix, Albert King and Nirvana, but switched to drums when he was bit by the jazz bug in his early twenties and relocated in 2007 to study percussion at the University of New Orleans.
Hoffman began hanging out with Powell at places like Donna’s Bar & Grill on Rampart Street; the pair hit it off and began a friendship that ventured far from the classroom. While Shannon guided Darren in music and street-smart professionalism, Hoffman introduced Powell to new technologies and 21st century music industry practices. While many students of music today study almost entirely in the world of academia, Darren had the unique experience of being mentored by a living legend in a more traditional way, doing odd jobs and handling business for Shannon in exchange for knowledge and musical guidance.
When Darren enrolled at UNO, he had all but forgotten the guitar, focusing on his career as a professional drummer. One afternoon in 2009, Darren pulled out his guitar and jammed through some blues tunes with Shannon. Taken aback by what he heard, Shannon proclaimed, “Man! We gotta record!” This chance riff resulted in the 2017 release simply entitled Blues, a stripped down interpretation of raw blues with a modern edge.
The success of that record led to a natural progression toward their new collaboration, Love Songs. Here we find Powell and Hoffman stretching out, but not relaxing at all. The mood is highly charged and powerful, with Powell hitting hard and Hoffman shredding like a chainsaw on razor wire. There are some subtle love songs on Love Songs, but many tracks that speak to the full experience of love - the energy, the tension, the elation and the agony. Classic tracks are included to keep the concept in context - Caledonia, St James Infirmary to name a couple - with originals both fun and frenzied mixed in. It’s a wonder to see this unlikely Uncle/Nephew duo chart new territory with full appreciation of the past.
"…True to their name, Uncle Nef is an uncle and a nephew: the former is celebrated drummer (and here singer) Shannon Powell, the latter is young guitar-slinger Darren Hoffman (some tracks add sax or organ, but there’s notably no bass). The cross-generational lineup means that it’s largely about absorbing each other’s influences: On one hand, the duo’s original tune “Beat to Eat” is classic-model New Orleans R&B, while the song “It Hurts” (which has echoed guitar, a recited lead vocal...” continue reading here
“The vastly experienced and highly respected New Orleans drummer and singer Shannon Powell and Florida-born guitarist Darren Hoffman combine to make a seemingly unlikely blues duo, one that combines the traditional and the new. Shannon is one of the Crescent City's top drummers and as he shows right from the off with the sou ful blues of That Was That', he certainly can sing. The following track, an instrumental called 'Cabrito', gives Darren the chance to show off his spiky, modern blues licks. Topsy Chapman & Solid Harmony provide supporting vocals on several tracks — not 'backing vocals', please note; they are as integral part of the songs — and sundry other instruments come into play to good effect. Hoffman's dreamy ballad 'It Hurts' is the only non-blues (or related) track, but there is more than enough to satisfy the blues lovers. Try the original 'So Alone' with stunning guitar work, and covers from Louis Jordan and Fats Domino plus the traditional 'St. James Infirmary Blues'; for the blues-rockers, there's Jimi Hendrix's 'Jam 292 (aka Jelly 292)'. Love Songs is a modern set firmly rooted in the blues but which also succeeds in clearly transcending the genre.“
“It's not often a New Orleans drumming great struts into the 100 Club armed only with drum sticks and a fantastic blues guitarist by his side, and lets rip a raw, tour de force set featuring Leadbelly, Nirvana and Louis Jordan, tinged with heartfelt originals. Uncle Nef ‘King of The Treme' Shannon Powell and guitarist Darren Hoffman, stunned the crowd with a heart-stopping set full of pathos, including a so-stripped-down-it-was-barely-real 'St. James Infirmary', alongside swinging originals that had the crowd Lindy Hopping with reckless abandon. In a city that has produced some of the world's most revered drummers, Powell stands tall in the lineage of New Orleans' rhythmic giants: a torchbearer of the city's culture with rich vocals evoking the spiritual churches, street parades and jazz clubs he has clearly been immersed in….” continue reading here
“Uncle Nef took an admirable direction with their latest single Beat to Eat, just how many genres they managed to pack into the progression of the track is mind blowing alone. There isn’t a hint of predictability to the track, usually tracks follow the monotony of structure yet the sultry groove of the Funk-infused melodies seamlessly entwined as you were treated to the archaically constructed Blues track. Alongside Beat to Eat, Uncle Nef released another spectacular single ‘St. James Infirmary Blues’ which is more than deserving of a mention. The artists stripped the sound right back and it’s safe to say Blues has never sounded sexier…” continue reading here
"First off, the leaders representing Uncle Nef are drummer and vocalist Shannon Powell and guitarist Darren Hoffman. Okay, that explains that though with Powell aboard it’s easy to have certain expectations – rarely a good idea – of what direction the music might take. The title of the four-cut EP, Blues, offers evidence to the material though at first listen the results still come as a bit of a surprise.
The disc opens with Hoffman’s guitar almost acting as a bass on the John Lee Hooker staple, “Shake It Baby....” continue reading here
"Shannon Powell, OffBeat‘s August 2005 cover story and the King of Tremé, has launched a new musical partnership with guitarist Darren Hoffman, though their relationship goes way back. Now performing and recording as Uncle Nef, Hoffman and Powell were once teacher and student but have graduated to musical family. The duo recently dropped its debut EP, Blues, and celebrated with a performance at d.b.a...." continue reading here