Gregory Porter ‘Liquid Spirit’ (Blue Note) 4/5

Gregory Porter
American vocalist Gregory Porter has made something of a stir on the UK music scene and rightly so. His performances of old and new material reveal an immensely gifted musician with a deep hinterland knowledge of the American tradition. What of his own compositional talents, then? This debut recording for major label Blue Note is in fact Porter’s third overall following on from the critically acclaimed ‘Be Good’ from 2012. He now has his own band with small brass section and has delivered an album of mainly originals that are in general excellent and bode well for his long-term career. They are typified by quirky compositions such as ‘Musical genocide’ which has thoughtful lyrics and a memorable bass line and piano vamp. Equally impressive is the uplifting ‘Wind song’ which has a lovely subtle drumbeat and some fine piano accompaniment. The title track is a blues-inflected groover in the Les McCann style and features some delicious brass ensemble playing and atmospheric handclaps while ‘The ‘In crowd’ repeats the experience and the soul-jazz bag is one that fits Porter like a glove. A minor-themed beauty is ‘Brown grass’ and Porter’s voice reminds one that is a long time since such a distinctive sound graced the jazz idiom with Al Jarreau, Jon Hendricks and even Eddie Jefferson (minus the vocalese histrionics). For a change of tempo, Gregory Porter’s balladry skills recall the young Nat King Cole and ‘No love dying’ is a particularly fine illustration. Not everything works as well, but at over just an hour, it would be unreasonable to expect sustained brilliance on this album. The compositions will only improve with time, but just right now Gregory Porter is in a creative phase and the listener is most certainly the beneficiary.

Tim Stenhouse