Gregory Porter ‘Issues of life: features and remixes’ (Momentum) 4/5

gregory-porterJazz singer extraordinaire Gregory Porter thrilled us with two first albums as a leader in ‘Liquid Spirit’ and ‘Be Good’. However, he is an incredibly versatile performer who has also featured on other musicians recent albums and this is why this mini compilation of these recordings is a very handy way to showcase Porter’s ability to sing in a variety of idioms and not exclusively in a jazz one. Needless to say, he excels on the straight ahead jazz numbers as on the relaxed tempo of ‘About the children’, with a lovely tenor saxophone solo from album leader David Murray. Furthermore, from the same recording session there is a quality ballad, the interestingly titled ‘Hope is a thing with feathers’, which has a definite hint of a Stevie Wonder composition about it. For more soulful hues, look no further than the old Bobby Timmons chestnut, ‘Moanin’ which Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers immortalised and virtually made it their very own signature tune in the late 1950s. Here Porter retains that churchy feel with call and response gospel vocals. In a not dissimilar vein, but more progressive is a beats meets Eddie Harris and Les McCann song, ‘1960 what’ (remixed version) which soul and funk DJs have already picked up on. Moreover, a moody beats ballad ‘She’s gone’ with minimalist instrumentation and the focus firmly on the voice opens up Gregory porter to a wider and younger audience. There is an attempt at nu-soul territory on ‘Just in time’ where Porter sounds akin to a latter day Luther Vandross with group Zbonics, though his voice is somewhat lost in the formulaic beats. The joyful organ-led ‘Army of the faithful’ returns to more familiar musical haunts and is excellent soul-jazz material. In general, then, a fine overview of where Gregory Porter currently stands musically.

Tim Stenhouse