GREGORY PORTER, LIQUID SPIRIT


photo by Shawn Peters
Singer and songwriter Gregory Porter’s baritone is one the most captivating instruments in present day jazz. Deep and sonorous, it’s matched by the affability and charisma of the singer who grew up in his mothers’ church and cites the Bakersfield Southern Gospel Sound as well as his family’s Nat King Cole record collection as key influences. On his two previous records for the independent Motema label, Water and Be Good (the latter was this writer’s picks for the best jazz vocal album in 2012,) Porter established himself as a modern troubadour and most directly carries on the tradition of Bill Withers and Sam Cooke by writing his own uplifting, meaningful and positive songs.

Liquid Spirit (Blue Note) keeps Porter’s strong production team and musicians in place, with original compositions that freely merge jazz with soul, gospel and R&B that’s beautifully exercised on the title cut -- a gospel-tinged tune fueled by hand-claps and a punchy Les McCann style piano break. Porter is a resounding master of the ballad, pitching the lyric to “Water Under Bridges” with a direct and sobering emotional understanding:

Somebody told me to get over it
it’s like water under bridges that have already burned
they say it gets better and gets easier
do you remember the days we used to spend
memories so strong it keeps me from moving on
if I could go back our worse days are better than loneliness

Underscored by pianist and arranger Chip Crawford, Porter is matter-of-fact in his style and his words penetrate in their simplicity and directness.

Porter’s songs have a topical currency, their wealth made of allusions to sun and sky, water and air drifts where a kite can take flight. It’s these natural elements that tie his music together and it makes Porter a powerhouse of a singer/songwriter and storyteller. Among so many good songs, “Hey Laura,” the deep groove of “Musical Genocide” and Withers-like anthem “Free” stand out from Porter’s passionate delivery and stalwart groove. The again, a remake of Ramsey Lewis’ The In Crowd” suits Porter especially well, like a self-contained theme song that lets the singer take a well-deserved peacock strut. You can link to a vid of the title track here (but you have to watch an annoying brief beer commercial first.)





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JAZZ IN SPACE: GREGORY PORTER, LIQUID SPIRIT

Friday, October 4, 2013

GREGORY PORTER, LIQUID SPIRIT


photo by Shawn Peters
Singer and songwriter Gregory Porter’s baritone is one the most captivating instruments in present day jazz. Deep and sonorous, it’s matched by the affability and charisma of the singer who grew up in his mothers’ church and cites the Bakersfield Southern Gospel Sound as well as his family’s Nat King Cole record collection as key influences. On his two previous records for the independent Motema label, Water and Be Good (the latter was this writer’s picks for the best jazz vocal album in 2012,) Porter established himself as a modern troubadour and most directly carries on the tradition of Bill Withers and Sam Cooke by writing his own uplifting, meaningful and positive songs.

Liquid Spirit (Blue Note) keeps Porter’s strong production team and musicians in place, with original compositions that freely merge jazz with soul, gospel and R&B that’s beautifully exercised on the title cut -- a gospel-tinged tune fueled by hand-claps and a punchy Les McCann style piano break. Porter is a resounding master of the ballad, pitching the lyric to “Water Under Bridges” with a direct and sobering emotional understanding:

Somebody told me to get over it
it’s like water under bridges that have already burned
they say it gets better and gets easier
do you remember the days we used to spend
memories so strong it keeps me from moving on
if I could go back our worse days are better than loneliness

Underscored by pianist and arranger Chip Crawford, Porter is matter-of-fact in his style and his words penetrate in their simplicity and directness.

Porter’s songs have a topical currency, their wealth made of allusions to sun and sky, water and air drifts where a kite can take flight. It’s these natural elements that tie his music together and it makes Porter a powerhouse of a singer/songwriter and storyteller. Among so many good songs, “Hey Laura,” the deep groove of “Musical Genocide” and Withers-like anthem “Free” stand out from Porter’s passionate delivery and stalwart groove. The again, a remake of Ramsey Lewis’ The In Crowd” suits Porter especially well, like a self-contained theme song that lets the singer take a well-deserved peacock strut. You can link to a vid of the title track here (but you have to watch an annoying brief beer commercial first.)





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