A man relatively unknown to me up until a few weeks ago, and has quickly stolen a small piece of my love of music and I’m glad to let him have it.
I’m normally not one to bow to influence from “higher up” celebrities, but when someone as influential as Stevie Wonder comes along and quotes that “This man is the epitome of talent”, I had to give Gregory Porter a listen. After being gifted with listening to “Hey Laura” from his last album Liquid Spirit, I knew I’d found another Jazz great to add alongside my fond affection for Weather Report and Miles Davis.
I’m so glad that I picked up the copy of the Metro on the train into work, otherwise I might not have spotted such a talent. I just feel a bit foolish for not getting involved sooner as he actually had a top 10 UK album that remained high in the charts for nearly 2 years.
Straight off the bat you can expect this to be a very calm and relaxed album but with a zesty kind of vibe. The man has had a tough life and worked hard at everything he has accomplished, including getting a scholarship to play American football before he was injured and had to put his lifelong dream on hold. He only dipped into writing music in his 30’s but as with all soulful singers and writers, that hasn’t stopped him from using personal experience and everyday ideas as a benchmark for some catchy lyrics. As well as having one heck of a backing band to supply some simply head nodding runs and beats.
The title track “Take me to the Alley” is a quality song that deserves a listen, especially the version he calls “1 mic, 1 take” in which he performs live with a band and records it all in one single take, just like they did back in the old days before multi-track recorders. He really does have an incredible set of pipes and there’s so much emotion that flows from him without effort. I would love to see what he could do if he opened up and let loose with a slightly more intimate tune.
The other single released is “Don’t Lose your Steam” and is a much more upbeat track in comparison. I would be surprised not to see someone attempt to do a jazz waltz on Strictly to this. The horn section gives a very Stevie Wonder vibe but still holds a unique tone to it that is his signature.
The last track I’ve had the joy of relaxing to is “Holding on”. So chilled, it instantly greets you with a smooth piano line and a little walking double bass line. It’s almost more blues than jazz but it’s not an argument with yourself that you will want to have, you’ll be too busy enjoying a vocal that to me sounds like a cross between John Legend, Stevie Wonder and Bill Withers. If you blend that together, then you may get close to this guy. Whilst a purist would argue that Stevie Wonder has more hits, John Legend has collaborated with a lot of different artists and is a little diluted and Bill Withers was a legend in his own right, this could be one of our generation’s legends in the making.
I’m eagerly awaiting my copy to turn up at home and until that day, I’ll have to make do with the few tracks up on Youtube and the live performances that grace BBC4 every now and then.
A must have album for jazz, blues and music fans alike.
Author – Andrew, Eton Store