Gregory Porter

“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.”

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

L.A native Gregory Porter’s rise from relative obscurity, to internationally recognised Jazz vocalist, 2014 Grammy Awarded Artist (Liquid Spirit CD), and one of the most in demand performers on the planet, has happened in a whirlwind four-year period. From playing a one-off PA at Gilles Peterson’s and Patrick Forge’s iconic Dingwalls session in 2011 (where he performed his signature tune 1960 What?), to headlining at prestigious venues across the globe, such as the Royal Albert Hall, London, Mr. Porter has remained forever affable, agreeable and approachable. Moreover, he is still thankful for the fortuitous position in which he finds himself today, rubbing shoulders with the superstar musical heavyweights of today.

In line with Mr. Porter’s agreeable reputation, Michael “The Dood” Edwards was granted a brief audience with the genial jazzman prior to what transpired to be a captivating double encore performance at The Stables, Milton Keynes.

The Dood: Mr Gregory Porter it’s a pleasure to meet you.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Gregory Porter: Hey, and you guys too! Okay, so I see you’ve come to get the shot that nobody else gets right! (Looks at Carl Hyde, Photographer) Like the one when you’re on stage with your arm out like this and the spit is coming out the side of your mouth, and you’re like, “Arrrrgh!!” Or when it looks like you’re about to eat the microphone! (For effect Gregory acts out a scenario)

The Dood: Tell us about the band you’ve put together for this tour?

Gregory Porter: Mr. Yohsuke Satoh on saxophone, Emanuel Harrold on drums, Chip Crawford on piano and Aaron James on wood-bass. They’re just creative; they have their own individual voice, but it all comes together. Because when we’re in tune with each other, it all comes together.

The Dood: I was talking with your sax player; Yohsuke Satoh and he mentioned that you met playing in Harlem. Can you enlighten us further?

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

Gregory Porter: We met in an Irish bar called Saint Nick’s in Harlem. It started off as a jam session, and then it turned into a gig. It kind of came about organically; the club is so small – it was like, “Okay, you’re on drums? Cool!” And then you keep playing and the vibe altogether feels good. When it came to recording, the chemistry had to be right.

The Dood: Paul Jackson the bass player from The Headhunters said more or less the same thing; the emotional connection happens first over and above any technical playing ability.

Gregory Porter: Right!

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: How do you look after your vocal chords?

Gregory Porter: I try to take care of myself; I try to stay out of the cold. I drink tea, and not too much hard drink before the show.

The Dood: You’ve been having major success in Europe recently especially Germany, are you pleased about that?

Gregory Porter: The record really took off in Germany especially, and there’s no anger at that!

The Dood: How have you coped with the global appreciation of your music?

Gregory Porter: For a second sometimes you gotta pinch yourself. At one point Ron Isley’s security was pushing me like this (Gregory barges The Dood gently) and Beyonce’s security was pushing me like this (Gregory repeats the motion); they were like giant mountains! So really you only got a glimpse of her. Then I said to myself, “Did I just get pushed out the way by both Ron Isley’s and Beyonce’s security!” (Laughs) Woah! But it was a cool pushing you know.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Dood: Which artists were your vocal inspirations growing up?

Gregory Porter: 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.

The Dood: Who of the new generation of singers are you impressed by, or would like to collaborate with?

Gregory Porter: I’m impressed by Lalah Hathaway; Jill Scott has reached out… Regarding collaborations, I’m looking for somebody to do what I did. I was nowhere to be found four years ago; I want to meet somebody like me, do you know I mean?

The Dood: What message do you have for the up-and-coming young artists of today?

Gregory Porter: Write from your own emotions and your own personal experience. Write from your organic place, not what you think the radio wants to hear. I see too many people writing for what they think the radio wants to hear.

The Dood: Thanks for your time. Have a great show!

Gregory Porter: It’s a pleasure.

Michael J Edwards

A Big Mike and ukvibe thank you to Heather Taylor of www.redfiremusic.co.uk for arranging quality pre-gig time with Mr Porter.

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Photo: Courtesy of Carl Hyde

The Gregory Porter Band:
Gregory Porter – vocals and scat
Chip Crawford – piano
Aaron James – bass
Emanuel Harrold – drums
Yohsuke Satoh – saxophone

Essential Tour Dates: http://www.gregoryporter.com/tours/

Essential Albums:
Water (Motéma 2011)
Be Good (Motéma 2012)
Liquid Spirit (Blue Note 2013)

Essential Website:
http://www.gregoryporter.com/

travelling the spaceways since 1993