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Born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield, and now living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Gregory Porter has made the world his musical home. A frequent guest performer with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Porter also maintains a residency at Smoke Jazz in New York. He appears on 2 tracks on the new Nicola Conte album, appeared on the Jools Holland BBC show in mid April. This year among the many festivals and events he will be on include the elb Jazz Festival in Hamburg, the North Sea Jazz Festival in Holland and the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta.

I’ve always loved ballads, and ‘But Beautiful’ is one of my favorites,” says Porter of the standard, on which his vocals and Chip Crawford’s piano share center stage. The mournful “Lonely One” paints a lyrical picture of a tragic love story, while the CD’s title track reiterates the artist’s use of water as metaphor for redemption, cleansing, history and survival. Water’s coda is a raw yet soulful Mahalia Jackson-influenced a cappella version of the classic “Feeling Good.”

With a voice that can caress or confront, embrace or exhort, Grammy nominee, Gregory Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of vocal mastery that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis has gone on record to call him “a fantastic young singer,” which makes the fact that Water  is his recording debut even more impressive.

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A debut release it may be, yet Water flows with a sense of timelessness that reflects the seasoned talents of the giants of blues, gospel and soul that have influenced Porter throughout his career. Some of the singers that Porter cites as influential are familiar – Nat King Cole, Joe Williams and Donny Hathaway – and others – such as the pastor of the church he attended as a child among them – may never realize their impact on his development as an artist. While the work of singers such as Hathaway or Cole obviously helped to shape Porter’s vocal styling, his own world view, as evidenced in his seven original compositions and his striking interpretation of classic songs such as “But Beautiful” and “Skylark,” adds an emotional intensity that makes each of the CD’s eleven tracks speak so eloquently. For the recording, Porter tapped a powerful cadre of strong players, among them the iconic alto sax player James Spaulding (Max Roach, Freddie Hubbard, and Bobby Hutcherson, et al) who plays a featured role on two tracks: “Wisdom” and “Black Nile.”

Discography

  • 2010: Water
  • 2012: Be Good’
  • 2013: Liquid Spirit

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GREGORY PORTER – THE “IN” CROWD