One of eight siblings raised by a minister mother in Bakersfield, California, Gregory Porter found his voice both by singing in church and by studying her Nat King Cole records at home. Though Cole’s talent, wisdom, and poise made him something of a surrogate father to a musically gifted boy who lived in his own head, it was a football scholarship that eventually carried Porter from California’s Central Valley to San Diego State University. An injury derailed his athletic career, but he found a mentor in producer Kamau Kenyatta, who has worked with Porter ever since. After college, Porter moved to New York to work the kitchen in his brother’s Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn cafe by day, and jazz clubs by night.
Though Porter had an acclaimed role in the original 1999 Broadway cast of It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues — and staged his own Nat King Cole & Me musical in 2004 — it was inevitable that he’d became known for his songs. That was made abundantly clear when both of Porter’s indie albums — 2010’s Water and 2012’s Be Good — received GRAMMY nominations, paving the way for his world-beating 2013 Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit, which won the GRAMMY for Best Jazz Vocal Album. He hasn’t let down his legion of fans since, whether collaborating with Disclosure on “Holding On,” scoring another GRAMMY for Take Me to the Alley (2016), or telling his life story through Cole’s songbook. Like others, Porter is still surprised by his runaway success, but he has a theory: “I was soothed by my voice as a child and I think that’s the same thing others get from it. I’m trying to heal myself with these songs.”
And that’s the thing about love that ALL RISE keeps circling. Even when it’s painful, confusing, out of reach, or under attack, love is ultimately curative. Drop the needle on “Revival” and just try to pretend you aren’t lifted by the spirit no matter your personal faith or affiliation. Once again, Porter cuts through the noise of genres and the mess of life to reach us all where we live: the heart.
|Brand||Blue Note Records|
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