Spotlight: Gregory Porter

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Grammy award winning jazz singer Gregory Porter’s album Liquid Spirit will delight both die hard Jazz lovers and those entirely new to the genre. The American singer has constructed a brilliant album. There are the classic up-tempo tracks with infectious rhythm, as well as slower heartfelt ballads, all of which collude to produce an album that is easy to listen to in its entirety.

Porter’s songwriting has to be acknowledged. His uncanny ability to write lyrics from personal experience and his compositional ability to blend genres is something seldom seen in the current charts and makes for refreshing listening.  This is particularly evident in songs such as in the incredibly honest and sad Hey Laura, as well as on the fascinating fusion of genres in Free.

After recently seeing the singer live in Gateshead, it would be a great injustice to the album not to upon Gregory Porter’s incredible vocal ability. The man has a brilliant range; his low notes are stunningly rich without compromising the velvety vocals in the rest of the melodies.  An ability which is sadly not demonstrated on the album (though was displayed live recently in Gateshead) is Porter’s ability to scat sing. It is a skill that may be seen as a dying art form, one popularised to our generation by Nina Simone’s Feeling Good and Louis Prima’s I Wanna Be Like You. 

The band he has put together is also worth noting. After seeing them live, there is definitely no denying their musicianship and improvisation ability. I have never heard a saxophone played the way Yosuke Sato plays it, and never knew a double bass solo could sound so good (this is featured in When Love Was King, a song inspired by his new baby son).

Musical Genocide is a particular personal highlight of the album. It discusses the fear of the death of his genre and how genres such as Blues, Gospel and Soul seem to be slowly losing popularity in comparison to other genres. It is a truly phenomenal track. One line in particular stands out to me: ‘I will not commit nor will I submit to/Musical Genocide’. If Gregory Porter continues to make albums like this, he may well give Jazz the boost in popularity it deserves.

 

Photograph: Bluenote Records

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