- Audio CD (13 Feb. 2012)
- Number of Discs: 1
- Format: CD
- Label: Motema
- ASIN: B006T9WU1S
- Other Editions: Audio CD | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (144 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,220 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Be Good CD
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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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Top Customer Reviews
Every track sounds like an "instant classic" and like it was written by somebody who has been in the music business for decades and not somebody who just appeared out of nowhere last year. So the sound palette is all-acoustic instruments again, with the Jazz influence dominating; although there are subtle elements of old school R&B, funk and soul. In fact, it is almost like Gregory Porter has taken all the best from "Black" music of the last 50 years and distilled it into a working Jazz band. 11 new tunes from Porter and a cover of a Jazz classic.
I love the sound - crystal clear and everything perfectly audible - just like a classic Blue Note album - but updated for the 21st Century. The piano dominates throughout and has an intimate conversation on the quieter tunes, then provides the impetus for the "blowing" on up-beat tunes. Some great horn solos, with Flugel sounding gorgeous on the stand-out track "On my Way to Harlem". Bass and drums are of the highest quality and provide support without ever intruding.
Of course it really is all about that voice - which just defies description. Dynamics, sustains, subtelty - no words can describe that wonderful sound. But Porter rocks out with the band and on up-tempo tunes like Nat Adderley's "Work Song" - he becomes another horn player and you can imagine this kind of tune is tremendous in a live setting!
What else can I say - you just run out of superlatives for this - you just have to hear it and I can't recommend it highly enough.
The opener "Painted On Canvass" is beautifully reflective and soulful whilst retaining a strong Jazz influence. "Be Good" is a very melodic mid-tempo Jazz song with lovely thoughtful lyrics. The tempo speeds up on "On My Way To Harlem" which is a very energetic jazzy number. The suave "Real Good Hands" possesses lovely phrasing and lyrics. "The Way You Want To Live" and "When Did You Learn" are further examples of the classy and sultry mid-tempo songs which the very talented Mr Porter composes so well. The melancholic "Imitation Of Life", originally sung by Earl Grant, is interpreted splendidly. "Mother's Song" is another energetic and inspirational creation whilst "Our Love" is another lovely ballad. "Bling Bling" is much more experimental than the other tunes as it uses more improvisation, both musically and vocally. The album closes with two covers, the funky and soulful "Work Song" and the Billie Holiday classic "God Bless The Child", the latter being interpreted in a very interesting manner.
The quality of the songs on "Be Good" is truly commendable as they are so well written and interpreted. This style of laid back Jazz has been done many times before, but Gregory Porter manages to make it sound original and contemporary whilst keeping the listener thoroughly entertained and alert. This is the Jazz album I have been waiting for and I am very grateful that I discovered Mr Porter.
Opener 'Painted On Canvas' is as tender as touch, the vocal caressing around gentle piano chords and playing lyrically with the colours of what makes us who we are. Title track 'Be Good' is playful too in its simple tune and the lyric 'she says lions are made for cages just to look at if you like/you dare not let them walk around cause they might just bite/she knows what she does as when she dances around my cage and says her name/be good, be good' - the metaphor of the lion teased and tamed in this relationship bolstered by a seductive alto sax solo by Yosuke Sato.
Third track 'On My Way To Harlem' is an upbeat homage to the influence and inspiration of Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Marvin Gaye: 'I so could use some of those blues from Langston Hughes'. His supporting band plays an energetic set for this spirited track. Fourth song 'Real Good Hands' has a wonderful spoken opening that evokes soul numbers of the sixties, and the sung assurances to the parents that he will look after their daughter seem equally anachronistic but totally believable in their polite promises, including 'I wanna make your daughter my wife'.
Seventh, the Webster/Fain 'Imitation of Life', is a classic piano-led jazz ballad that presents Porter's vocal in all its simple and gentle eminence. This is followed by another sweet offering, 'Mother's Song', which is a warm and heartfelt tribute invoking traditional sensibilities of honour, trust and blessing. Ninth 'Our Love' keeps the mood mellow and romantic.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought this after buying Liquid Spirit which was, in turn prompted by going to a concert at which Gregory Porter's voice sounded like liquid gold. Read morePublished 26 days ago by Miss KF Preedy
Great album that you will play on and on again and again .Published 1 month ago by Mr. Robert Lismore
fantastic fantastic fantastic-- recently listening to Gregory Porter- chose this CD after looking at reviews- faultless -BeautifulPublished 2 months ago by reviews my buys
It's a good album but not brilliant as Take Me To The Alley or Liquid Spirit. But that's just my opinion.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
excellent - I bought Perter's discography and I am very happy with the purchase and the music experience.Published 4 months ago by MM