Gregory Porter Rocks Jazz and Turns It Upside Down


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Gregory Porter Rocks Jazz and Turns It Upside Down


by Hermene Hartman
Though he won the 2014 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album with his third release Liquid Spirit, and his 2010 debut album Water was also nominated for a jazz Grammy, Gregory Porter often does not sound like a jazz singer. Mr. Porter just won the International Jazz Artist of the Year, last week. He is equally adept crooning gospel, blues, R&B and soul.
Porter brings his rich baritone to the N’DIGO Scholarship Gala at Chicago Symphony Center this Father’s Day, Sunday, June 21, where he will perform in concert along with jazz icon Dianne Reeves.
Porter’s diversity comes from being born in Sacramento and raised in Bakersfield, California, whose population is largely a migration of re-located Southerners from Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, who brought with them a mighty country music tradition, but also brought southern gospel, blues, soul and jazz as well.

His hat is his trademark . . .

gregory porter

Porter is the hottest cat on the planet as he comingles musical genres . Click to listen.


Young Porter was infused with this musical mixture as he sang in the church services of his mother, a minister and missionary at a number of storefront churches.
“I was singing that music of a bygone era with these old church members that my mother would associate with. And that still informs my music,” says Porter, now 43 years old.
He was born in 1971 and the New York Times has said that his music – Porter writes much of his own material – comes “from a more ’70 or early ‘80’s-oriented place in the African-American jazz tradition.”
Porter identifies with that assessment; the singer who is noted for his trademark “jazz hat” is definitely old school. A cut on his Liquid Soul album called Musical Genocide attacks the studio perfectionism and shallowness of today’s music while harking back to and acknowledging what the singer considers a more enlightened musical era.


His songs are hard hitting and funk infused. . .

gregory porter

Listen to On My Way to Harlem.

What’s missing today, he says, is, “in those songs from the ‘70s, somebody was always talking about Mama and progress and the situation on the ground,” he told the New York Times. “It was just real-life stories. That’s what I’m talking about in that song and my music.”
Porter recounts that he and his five brothers and three sisters of their single-parent mom used to sing to entertain themselves and that included performing the music of the day, which he says is part of how he developed such a richly mixed musical repertoire.
And that explains why for his second album, Be Good, the title track was nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance Grammy, unlike his two other nominations and win in the jazz category.
Porter just shrugs off the dichotomy. “I’m fully aware that everything I do doesn’t adequately please jazz traditionalists,” he says. “I laugh at the mix of people who come to my shows. I realize I have to give them all something, and something for all of them exists in me.
“There are songs that a grandmother likes and there are hard-hitting, more bass- and funk-infused things that are part of my vocabulary as well. I don’t do them as a separate part of the show; they co-mingle and co-exist, which is something I’ve done with everything. I’m trying to find that happy medium.”


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Cornbread and Caviar Dreams. . .


Check GP In Warsaw. Click here to listen.

Indeed he is. The now Brooklyn-based Porter explained that he wrote a song for his young son recently called Cornbread and Caviar Dreams. “My wife is Russian, and of course my mother made great cornbread, so I’m figuring it all out,” he laughed. “I’m trying to come honestly, really trying to be unpretentious. I’m trying to be appealing, even as a jazz artist, to the non-jazz head. Trying to speak to them as well. I want to speak to the human heart.”
As a jock in high school, Porter received a full athletic scholarship to San Diego State University, but a should injury derailed his budding football career. So after graduating, he jumped into professional theater with the San Diego Repertory Theater, following another early passion of his.
Porter’s acting foundation was performing in church plays as a kid. He did some Shakespeare in theater classes in high school and was part of a small theatre troupe in college called We Shall Not Be Moved, whose name came from the old gospel spiritual. He was a member of the original Broadway cast of It Ain’t Nothing But The Blues, and has written a couple of musicals himself.

Jazzy, Bluesy, Folksy, R&Bish with a touch of soul is Porter's magic. . .



Porter signed with the Motema Music label to record his debut album Water, which released in 2010 to immediate critical acclaim and the Grammy nomination.
After releasing Be Good in 2012 and garnering his second Grammy nomination, Porter signed with Blue Note Records in May 2013 and released Liquid Spirit just four months later, earning his third Grammy nomination for his third album and his first win.
At Blue Note Records, Porter is at home with heavyweights Cassandra Wilson, Bobby McFerrin, Kurt Elling and Dianne Reeves. He sang with Reeves on her Beautiful Life album, which won the 2015 Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Performance, and will join voices with her again on stage at the N’DIGO Gala on Sunday, June 21

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