- Audio CD (13 Feb. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Motema
- ASIN: B006T9WU1S
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 169 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,721 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
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MP3 Download, 15 Feb 2012
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Californian-born New Yorker Gregory Porter shot to fame with his debut album, Water, in 2010, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal in the process. This follow-up comes with high expectations, but fans of authentically soulful vocals and luxuriant horn-heavy arrangements need not worry, Porter has, in a word, nailed it.
Porter’s voice is a marvel: a warm, assured tenor with precise, impeccable intonation, completely at home in classy originals that – like all good jazz – seem to bathe in timeless familiarity. On Painted on Canvas, Porter’s delivery is imbued with some of Donny Hathaway’s earnest wistfulness, while the title-track feels so much like a standard from the Great American Songbook that it’s a cinch to imagine it cropping up in a Sammy Davis Jr TV special between The Candy Man and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head – and it comes as no surprise to learn that Porter is a veteran of musical theatre.
Yet, despite these stylings, Porter clearly sees his work as part of a jazz lineage – as driven home in the breezily up-tempo optimism of On My Way to Harlem with its Duke Ellington name-check and Porter’s claim of “I was baptized by a jazzman’s horn”. It’s a sentiment that benefits from the genuine jazz chops laid down by an acoustic band built around pianist Chip Crawford – who isn’t afraid to take his solos out beyond obvious melodic territory – and saxophonist/arranger Kamau Kenyatta, whose solos are a little more honeyed.
There’s a sense of sumptuous comfort about much of the album – and not just in the arrangements. Porter’s lyrics, too, seem to come from a place of great emotional strength: Real Good Hands is a respectful marriage proposal (complete with cornball 70s-style spoken introduction) and Mother’s Song is a gospelised paean to family values. In fact, towards the middle of this (quite long) album it’s all so wholesome and smooth that it’s a little like lingering too long in a hot bath and nodding off into steamy, contented slumber.
But all is made good by a couple of closing stormers: Bling Bling, a high-energy jazz gallop in which Porter unleashes an all-too-brief burst of raucous scat; and a belting version of Nat Adderley’s Work Song that raises exuberant goose-bumps. Yeah, Gregory Porter is the real deal.
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The production is exemplary and the combination of Jazz and funk with a soulful but immaculately controlled power in his voice and thought provoking politically relevant lyric makes for an album that will stand up to the years.
This record does live up to the live gig and the best material is represented by the first three compositions which are hugely impressive. As the Amazon review states, the middle of the disc includes a lot of more reflective pieces which tends to change the mood of the CD almost into MOR territory before the strident "Bling, bling" offers an almost extreme contrast. "Bling, bling" features some pretty "out" playing from the oianist Chip Crawford which recalled the late Andrew Hill in some respects and this pitches Porter firmly within the contemporary jazz canon. Crawford is far more of a prickly soloist that you would normally find behind a vocalist and I like this fact. The following "Work Song" swing very hard too and is the best version I've heard of Nat Adderley's old warhouse.
In summary, Gregory Porter was a wonderful voice and is pretty handy as a songwriter too. Nothing here to startle the horses and perfectly acceptable as a piece of jazz but a better balance with more up-tempo tunes might have ensured that this record was one of this year's most interesting jazz records. I think this is a very good album but the disc has a bit of a soft centre which probably makes it four stars and not five. A major talent, in my opinion. I would recommend this disc.
I was lucky enough to see him live at the Cheltenham Jazz festival very recently - he was utterly outstanding, fresh, new, happy, every bit the new superstar of music and a real charmer too. This guy has just got it and my, is he into his music.
'Be Good' - is excellent and probably my favourite of the two CD's. The two tracks I most adore are 'Be Good' (Lion's Song) and 'Real Good Hands'. The lyrics and harmonies of the two tracks are really touching and transport me into a world of 'real singing and music,' 'extreme talent' and 'human emotion.'
You 'feel' every inch of the emotion Mr Porter is conveying. This reminds me of the time when people 'valued' each other and 'connected' to each other as 'human beings' - something Mr Porter has succeeded in doing well.
Thank you Mr Porter - I look forward to hearing and buying much more of your music and to seeing you perform in person.
Pauline W - Woodford Green
...and never looked back. Sublime vocal delivery - AFAIC beats the well-regarded Kurt Elling hands down as Porter sings a performance, whereas Elling performs in a technically proficient manner.
Wonderful stuff; just a pity his vinyl versions are so expensive.
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