Gregory Porter

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Gregory Porter
Porter on JazzLive in 2013
Porter at JazzLive International,
Pittsburgh, 2013
Background information
Born (1971-11-04) November 4, 1971 (age 47)
Sacramento, California, United States
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1998–present
Labels
Websitegregoryporter.com

Gregory Porter (born November 4, 1971)[1] is an American singer, songwriter, and actor. He won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2014 for Liquid Spirit and in 2017 for Take Me to the Alley.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Porter in concert with his regular band at Cosmopolite club in Oslo, 2016

Gregory Porter was born in Sacramento and was raised in Bakersfield, California, where his mother was a minister. A 1989 graduate of Highland High School, he received a "full-ride" (tuition, books, medical coverage, and living expenses) athletic scholarship as a football lineman to San Diego State University (SDSU Aztecs), but a shoulder injury during his junior year cut short his football career.[3] At the age of 21, Porter lost his mother to cancer, but only after she entreated him from her death bed: "Sing, baby, sing!"

Career[edit]

Porter moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in 2004, along with his brother Lloyd. He worked as a chef at Lloyd's restaurant Bread-Stuy (now defunct), where he also performed. Porter performed at other neighborhood venues including Sista's Place and Solomon's Porch, and moved on to Harlem club St. Nick's Pub, where he maintained a weekly residency. Out of this residency evolved what would become Porter's touring band.[4]

Porter released two albums on the Motéma label together with Membran Entertainment Group, 2010's Water and 2012's Be Good, before signing with Blue Note Records (under Universal Music Group) on May 17, 2013. His third album, Liquid Spirit, was released on September 2, 2013, in Europe and on September 17, 2013, in the US.[5] The album was produced by Brian Bacchus.[6] The album won the 2014 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.[7]

Liquid Spirit enjoyed commercial success rarely achieved by albums in the jazz genre, reaching the top 10 on the UK album charts. It was certified gold by the BPI, selling over 100,000 units in the UK.[8]

In August 2014 Porter released "The 'In' Crowd" as a single.[9] On May 9, 2015 Porter participated in VE Day 70: A Party to Remember, a televised commemorative concert from Horse Guards Parade in London, singing "As Time Goes By".[10]

His fourth album, Take Me to the Alley, was released on May 6, 2016.[11] In UK's The Guardian it was Alexis Petridis's album of the week.[12]

On June 26, 2016, Porter performed on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival 2016. Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Neil McCormick said, "The portly middle-aged jazzer may be the oddest pop star on the planet but he is a refreshing testament to the notion that the most important organ for musical appreciation should always be our ears. And Porter has one of the most easy-on-the-ear voices in popular music, a creamy baritone that flows thick and smooth across a rich gateaux of juicy melody. It's a voice that makes you want to lick your lips and dive right in."[13]

In September 2016 Porter performed at Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park from Hyde Park, London. He would go on to perform in the annual BBC Children in Need show in November, a night dedicated to Sir Terry Wogan, who hosted it in previous years and was a fan of Porter.[14]

In January 2017 Porter performed the song "Holding On" on BBC One's The Graham Norton Show.[15] In September 2017 he performed as part of the Later... with Jools Holland: Later 25 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.[16]

In October 2017 he performed the song "Mona Lisa" on BBC One's The Graham Norton Show with Jeff Goldblum on piano.[17]

Critical reception[edit]

Since his 2010 debut on the Motéma label, Porter has been well received in the music press.

His debut album, Water, was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.[18] He was also a member of the original Broadway cast of It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues. His second album, Be Good, which contains many of Porter's compositions, garnered critical acclaim for both his distinctive singing and his compositions, such as "Be Good (Lion's Song)", "Real Good Hands", and "On My Way to Harlem". The title track was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.[19] In his review of Water, Kevin Le Gendre of the BBC wrote that "Gregory Porter has a voice and musicality to be reckoned with."[20]

The New York Times described Porter as "a jazz singer of thrilling presence, a booming baritone with a gift for earthy refinement and soaring uplift" in its review of Liquid Spirit.[21]

Michael G. Nastos of AllMusic wrote a mixed review of Water, stating: "In hard bop trim, Shorter's 'Black Nile' has Porter shouting out a lyric line that was done many years ago by Chicago's Luba Raashiek, but Porter's voice is strained and breaks up. While on every track Porter sings with great conviction, he's more effective on lower-key compositions", but went on to say that "he's right up there with José James as the next big male vocal jazz star."[22]

Personal life[edit]

Porter has seven siblings. His mother, Ruth, was a large influence on his life, having encouraged him to sing in church at an early age. His father, Rufus, was largely absent from his life. Says Porter, "Everybody had some issues with their father, even if he was in the house. He may have been emotionally absent. My father was just straight-up absent. I hung out with him just a few days in my life. And it wasn't a long time. He just didn’t seem to be completely interested in being there. Maybe he was, I don't know."[23]

For public appearances, Porter always wears a hat reminiscent of an English hunt cap incorporating fabric that covers his ears and chin, like a Balaclava.[24] In an interview with Jazzweekly.com by George W. Harris on November 3, 2012, when asked "What's with the weird and wonderful hat?" Porter replied: "I've had some surgery on my skin, so this has been my look for a little while and will continue to be for a while longer. People recognize me by it now. It is what it is."[25]

Discography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Christian Broecking, Gregory Porter. Jazz, Gospel and Soul. Creative People Books, Berlin, 2015, ISBN 978-3-938763-42-1.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gregory Porter: Prohibice by mi nevadila". Novinky.cz. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  2. ^ "Grammy Winners 2017". The New York Times. February 12, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  3. ^ "Gregory Porter (thevoiceofgregoryporter) on Myspace". Myspace.com. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  4. ^ "Gregory Porter: Jazz's Next Great Male Vocalist". Jazztimes.com/. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  5. ^ Jeff Tamarkin (May 15, 2013). "Blue Note Signs Vocalist Gregory Porter". Jazztimes.com. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  6. ^ "Liquid Spirit cover unveiled". Marlbank.net/. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "Best Jazz Vocal Album". Grammy.com/. Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  8. ^ Paul Sexton (February 15, 2015). "That's The "Spirit" Gregory Porter makes UK top ten". Udiscovermusic.com/. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  9. ^ Guardian music (August 1, 2014). "Gregory Porter: The 'In' Crowd – video premiere". The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  10. ^ "BBC One – VE Day 70, A Party to Remember". BBC.co.uk/. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  11. ^ Jane Cornwell (May 6, 2016). "Gregory Porter – Take Me To the Alley, review: 'strength, heart, authority and vulnerability'". Evening Standard. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  12. ^ Alexis Petridis (May 5, 2016). "Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley review – genre-straddling true grit". The Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  13. ^ Catherine Gee, Rupert Hawksley and Patrick Smith (June 27, 2016). "Glastonbury 2016, Sunday: Coldplay joined by Michael Eavis and Barry Gibb from The Bee Gees wow the muddy crowd– as it happened". The Telegraph.
  14. ^ "Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park – Gregory Porter".
  15. ^ "Episode 13, Series 20, The Graham Norton Show – BBC One".
  16. ^ "BBC iPlayer – Watch BBC Two live". Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  17. ^ "Episode 4, Series 22, The Graham Norton Show – BBC One".
  18. ^ "Gregory Porter at Nominees Reception". grammy.com/. February 12, 2011. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  19. ^ "55th annual Grammy Awards nominees". usatoday.com/. January 16, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  20. ^ "Music – Review of Gregory Porter – Water". BBC.co.uk. May 11, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  21. ^ Nate Chinen, E"voking Older Ideals and Earthly Realities: Gregory Porter Mines Soulful Jazz in 'Liquid Spirit'", The New York Times, September 6, 2013.
  22. ^ Michael G. Nastos. "Review of Gregory Porter's "Water"". Allmusic. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  23. ^ John Murph (March 30, 2012). "Gregory Porter: Jazz's Next Great Male Vocalist". Jazztimes.com. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  24. ^ Jamieson, Natalie (March 11, 2015). "Gregory Porter: Less about the hat, more about the heart". BBC News.
  25. ^ Harris, George W. (November 3, 2012). "Gregory Porter: Living Water". Jazz Weekly.

External links[edit]