Gregory Porter

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Gregory Porter
Gregory Porter
Porter performing at the 2018 Kongsberg Jazzfestival
Background information
Born (1971-11-04) November 4, 1971 (age 51)
Sacramento, California, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1998–present

Gregory Porter (born November 4, 1971)[1] is an American singer, songwriter and actor. He has twice won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album: first in 2014 for Liquid Spirit and then again 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, Norway, 2016

Gregory Porter was born in Sacramento, California, and was raised in Bakersfield, California, where his mother Ruth was a minister.[3] Porter has seven siblings. His mother 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."[4]

After graduating from Highland High School in 1989, he received a full athletic scholarship as a football lineman from San Diego State University (SDSU Aztecs), but a shoulder injury during his junior year cut short his football career.[5]

Porter's mother died from cancer when he was 21 years old. From her death bed, she entreated him: "Sing, baby, sing!"[3]


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.[6] The album, produced by Brian Bacchus,[7] won the 2014 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.[8] 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.[9]

In August 2014, Porter released "The 'In' Crowd" as a single.[10] 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".[11]

His fourth album, Take Me to the Alley, was released on May 6, 2016.[12] In UK's The Guardian it was Alexis Petridis's album of the week.[13]

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."[14]

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.[15]

In January 2017, Porter performed the song "Holding On" on BBC One's The Graham Norton Show.[16] In September 2017 he performed as part of the Later... with Jools Holland: Later 25 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.[17] In October 2017 he performed the song "Mona Lisa", with Jeff Goldblum on piano, on The Graham Norton Show.[18]

On August 28, 2020, Porter released his sixth studio album, All Rise.[19] On November 5, 2021, Porter released a Greatest Hits compilation album titled Still Rising - The Collection on the Blue Note label.[20][21][22] The same day he performed the song "Revival" on The Graham Norton Show.[23]

On New Year's Eve 2021, Porter performed on Jools' Annual Hootenanny.[24]

On June 2, 2022, Porter, accompanied by the London Community Gospel Choir, sang the specially-composed song "A Life Lived with Grace" for the lighting of The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Beacons.[25][26]


Describing his own style Porter said in a 2014 interview: "I would say Donny Hathaway, Nat King Cole, Bill Withers – I hear something of me in all of them that is similar to the culture that I grew up in i.e. Gospel music. I could hear the familiarity to Gospel music in the songs of someone like Ray Charles; just voices that influence my soul and are rooted in Gospel music."[27]

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.[28] 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". "Real Good Hands" was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.[29] In his review of Water, the BBC's Kevin Le Gendre wrote that "Gregory Porter has a voice and musicality to be reckoned with."[30]

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.[31]

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."[32]

Personal life[edit]

Porter is married to Victoria and they have two sons, Demyan and Lev. Their home is in Bakersfield, California. His brother Lloyd Cornelius Porter (* 1970) died in May 2020 due to complications from a Covid-19 infection.[33][34]

For public appearances, Porter always wears a hat reminiscent of a deerstalker incorporating fabric that covers his ears and chin.[35] In a 2012 interview with, 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." In an interview with The Daily Telegraph in 2016, he divulged that he received some facial scars when he was "seven or eight", but declined to go into the specifics of how they were sustained. He said: "I just saw it one day (the hat) and said 'I'm gonna put this on, I like it.' It was before the music career." The cap is a Kangol Summer Spitfire.[36][37]


Studio albums[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Grammy Awards[edit]

Year Category Nominated Work Result Ref
2010 Best Jazz Vocal Album Water Nominated [39]
2012 Best Traditional R&B Performance "Real Good Hands" Nominated
2013 "Hey Laura" Nominated
Best Jazz Vocal Album Liquid Spirit Won
2016 Take Me to the Alley Won
2018 Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album Nat King Cole & Me Nominated
2020 Best R&B Album All Rise Nominated


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


  1. ^ "Gregory Porter: Prohibice by mi nevadila". Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  2. ^ "Grammy Winners 2017". The New York Times. February 12, 2017. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Monique, Porsha (June 16, 2017). "Grammy Award-winning jazz artist Gregory Porter talks music influences and more". Rolling Out. Retrieved November 2, 2020.
  4. ^ a b Murph, John (March 30, 2012). "Gregory Porter: Jazz's Next Great Male Vocalist". Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  5. ^ "Gregory Porter (thevoiceofgregoryporter) on Myspace". Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  6. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff (May 15, 2013). "Blue Note Signs Vocalist Gregory Porter". Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  7. ^ "Liquid Spirit cover unveiled". Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  8. ^ "Best Jazz Vocal Album". Retrieved October 23, 2014.
  9. ^ Sexton, Paul (February 15, 2015). "That's The "Spirit" Gregory Porter makes UK top ten". Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  10. ^ Guardian music (August 1, 2014). "Gregory Porter: The 'In' Crowd – video premiere". The Guardian. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  11. ^ "BBC One – VE Day 70, A Party to Remember". Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  12. ^ Cornwell, Jane (May 6, 2016). "Gregory Porter – Take Me To the Alley, review: 'strength, heart, authority and vulnerability'". Evening Standard. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  13. ^ Petridis, Alexis (May 5, 2016). "Gregory Porter: Take Me to the Alley review – genre-straddling true grit". The Guardian. Retrieved May 8, 2016.
  14. ^ Gee, Catherine; Rupert Hawksley; 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. Archived from the original on January 11, 2022.
  15. ^ "Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park – Gregory Porter". BBC. September 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "Episode 13, Series 20, The Graham Norton Show – BBC One". January 2017.
  17. ^ "BBC iPlayer – Watch BBC Two live". Retrieved September 23, 2017.
  18. ^ "Episode 4, Series 22, The Graham Norton Show – BBC One". October 2017.
  19. ^ "Gregory Porter – All Rise out 28th August". August 12, 2020.
  20. ^ "Gregory Porter Still Rising The Collection". Apple Music. November 5, 2021. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  21. ^ Haynes, Jim (November 3, 2021). "Gregory Porter Takes Stock of Career With Covers, Duets & New Songs On 'Still Rising' (ALBUM REVIEW)". Glide Magazine. Retrieved November 3, 2021.
  22. ^ Bushell, Gary (November 5, 2021). "Gregory Porter is 'Still Rising' towards global fame". Express. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  23. ^ "The Graham Norton Show - Series 29: Episode 7".
  24. ^ "BBC Two - Jools' Annual Hootenanny". BBC.
  25. ^ "Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Gregory Porter to lead performance at Platinum Beacons: Lighting Up The Jubilee ceremony". June 1, 2022.
  26. ^ "Gregory Porter to lead performance at lighting of jubilee beacons". Bradford Telegraph and Argus. May 31, 2022.
  27. ^ "Gregory Porter". March 23, 2014. Retrieved December 22, 2021.
  28. ^ "Gregory Porter at Nominees Reception". February 12, 2011. Retrieved August 4, 2013.
  29. ^ "55th annual Grammy Awards nominees". January 16, 2011. Retrieved October 21, 2013.
  30. ^ "Music – Review of Gregory Porter – Water". May 11, 2010. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  31. ^ Chinen, Nate (September 6, 2013), E"voking Older Ideals and Earthly Realities: Gregory Porter Mines Soulful Jazz in 'Liquid Spirit'", The New York Times.
  32. ^ Nastos, Michael G. "Review of Gregory Porter's "Water"". Allmusic. Retrieved July 12, 2015.
  33. ^ Roberts, Sam (May 22, 2020). "Lloyd Porter, Cafe Owner Who Found Joy in Everyone, Dies at 49". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  34. ^ Jamieson, Amber. "A Brooklyn Man Described As "Mr. Hooper From Sesame Street" Died From The Coronavirus". BuzzFeed News. Retrieved July 24, 2022.
  35. ^ Jamieson, Natalie (March 11, 2015). "Gregory Porter: Less about the hat, more about the heart". BBC News.
  36. ^ Hughes, David (December 25, 2018). "Why does Gregory Porter wear a hat? Merry Christmas Baby singer's look explained". Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  37. ^ Harris, George W. (November 3, 2012). "Gregory Porter: Living Water". Jazz Weekly.
  38. ^ "Gregory Porter – 'All Rise'". August 28, 2020.
  39. ^ "Gregory Porter". Grammy Awards. April 22, 2021.

External links[edit]