Gregory Porter -][- “Water” – [Motéma Music, 2010 | Review]
Born in LA, and raised in Bakersfield, CA and currently residing in Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, NY. Vocal artist extraordinaire Gregory Porter has found a new dwelling place to call home and execute his unyielding talent on the New York and global music scene.
Porter’s debut “Water,” is on the internationally independent record label Motéma Music. It’s produced by the multi-facet saxophonist, pianist and composer Kamau Kenyatta. Grammy winning jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis says Porter is “a fantastic young singer.”
The opener “Illusion,” is definitely for the relationship minded folks. You’ll find Porter’s vocal presence warm, cool, and confronting. Coupled with pianist Chip Crawford, in a duo setting this jewel serves up what could easily be considered a timeless masterpiece in the making. On Illusion, Porter boldly expresses himself lyrically through the immeasurable pain that’s often felt on the imminent journey of love that is reflected in the sobering nuances that are divulge from his smooth, and elegant timbre is reminiscent of early influences including Donny Hathaway, Nate King Cole and Joe Williams.
Porter’s versatility is simply amazing. His vocal prowess is noticeably different from most male vocalists you hear these days. Actually, his passion for music soared beyond the normal backdrop to extract his energy into the open canvas of theater. Porter’s initial success on stage came with “It Ain’t Nothing but the Blues.” By chance, doors where open for another theatrical production featuring Eloise Laws of the famous Laws family from Houston, TX.
Remarkably, Gregory Porter exhales thoroughly by utilizing his explosive range drawn from his intense training in theater on “Pretty.” Whereas he’s obviously steeped in the fabric of jazz, Porter purposefully en-wraps the fervor of his voice in a medium to interchange ideas in the body of the song with his fabulous cohorts to express themselves fluently in tone and harmony. The gifted Porter talent rests his in the accomplished hands of producer Kenyatta who’s responsible thus far for Porter’s career continuing in increasing flight.
Often times musicians are motived to write about something or someone that might seem a odd or even quirky to us as listeners. For instance, a tune called “Magic Cup,” appears amidst this wonderful palette of music. Porter identifies here in song his passion for of all things “coffee,” simply because he “loves coffee.” This energetic tune was written for a “beautiful friend who works at a coffee shop” that he visits regularly. Star Bucks [MacDonald’s] give this dude a contract to help promote your product!
Woven in the framework of this project there are three enchanting and refreshing songs: the incredible classic “Skylark, (Mercer).” Porter vocally works this gem adding his own colorful twist and charm. It’s followed by the jubilant “Black Nile (Shorter)” which soars as his dynamic vocals and scorching instrumentation romp with intensity and on the coattail is the thought-provoking “Wisdom” composed by his friend and mentor Daniel Jackson. “In retrospect, Porter says this song could be about the post-Katrina (New Orleans) experience.” Believe it, this unquestionably jazz at its finest. They bravely delve into a prolific journey entrenched in the elements of jazz that some estranged jazz enthusiast called real jazz in the sixties. Real jazz … should I, or who’s to say what’s so real about it?! Their infallible interplay aligned with Porter’s swagger is compliant to the raging waters birth within these magnificent songs will indeed provoke “jazz” aficionados to fully engage themselves in this music.
Internationally known and traveled, Gregory honed his skills as an artist in Russia. In fact, 17 times he endured the bone shattering cold to perform and returned as a better performer.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this recording is that Porter does hesitate to do something musicians seem to avoid is recording music that’s politically charged. He recorded a tune titled “1960 What?” It was inspired in part by composer/pianist/producer Kamau Kenyatta while living in Detroit! 1960 What? By definition is absolutely fascinating! Furthermore, 1960 What? lyrically resides in company of the provocative song writing style of the late Curtis Mayfield! This gem is entangled in the indelible roots of his gospel, jazz and the blues influences in which Porter brilliantly articulates vocally throughout. This song is dedicated to tragic assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968. as well as Kenyatta’s experiences growing up in Los Angeles.
On “But Beautiful” Porter gently washes away the intricate pains of love with pure emotional intensity. Yes, the brother can croon!
The lyrical content on “Water” exudes freely with unblemished treatments provided by Porter as he slowly caresses the mournful melodies emphasized on “Lonely One.” Lyrically this song is tale of a tragic love story. Meantime the enthralling title track “Water” features the beautiful compliment of Chip on the piano. Finally, the soulful “Feeling Good” Porter sings in a cappella with raw conviction concludes this mesmerizing session.
Gregory Porter’s debut “Water” is a graceful endeavor that mirrors the accomplishments of his predecessors with unrivaled artistry on his behalf. Porter embarks on a heart jarring musical journey on “Water” Porter aligns his voice with the intimate details that embraces matters of the heart. He’s without a doubt soulful, affluent, and classy and his exquisite baritone is understated. Mr. Porter’s unassuming quest to establish his voice via meaningful music is transformed by his radiant character is more than welcomed on the shelves and media players of jazz enthusiasts’ who decidedly love quality music! —Rob Young | The Urban Flux