@ the Love Supreme Jazz Festival
7 July 2013
Click an image to enlarge.
Gregory Porter’s Desert Island Discs
Which 2 albums would you take with you to a
Eddie Harris, Les McCann – Swiss Movement
Nat King Cole – Nature Boy
With a voice that can caress or confront, embrace
or exhort, Gregory Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of
vocal mastery, that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis
has gone on record to call him “a fantastic young singer.”
Born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield, residing presently in
Bedstuy, Brooklyn, Porter performs around the UK, Europe, Russia
and USA. A frequent guest performer with the Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz Orchestra, Porter also maintains a long-standing residency
at Smoke Jazz Club in New York.
Porter’s debut recording “Water”
received a Grammy Nomination in 2010 for Best Jazz Album. It was
produced by saxophonist, pianist, composer and good friend Kamau
Kenyatta. Kenyatta who bears much of the responsibility for Porter’s
career trajectory, which can be traced back to Porter’s early
days singing in small jazz clubs in San Diego. He lived there while
at San Diego State University on a football scholarship, as an outside
linebacker, until a shoulder injury sidelined him permanently. Recognising
his talents Kenyatta, along with saxophonist Daniel Jackson, nurtured
the burgeoning performer and as Porter says, “taught him what
he needed to know.” Kenyatta invited Porter to visit him in
the studio in Los Angeles, where he was producing the flutist Hubert
Laws’ Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole. Certainly
Kenyatta was aware of Porter’s childhood infatuation with
Cole’s music and certainly he could hear the echoes of Cole’s
mellow baritone in Porter’s own voice.
Eloise Laws a highly respected singer and recording
artist in her own right, joined the cast of the musical theater
play, “It Ain’t Nothin’ But The Blues.”
Although he’d only had minimal theatrical experience to that
point in the Doo Wop musical “Avenue X”, Porter eventually
was cast in one of eight lead roles when the play opened in Colorado
at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts and followed it to
Off-Broadway and then Broadway theater, where the NY Times, in its
1999 rave review, mentioned Porter among the show’s “powerhouse
line up of singers.” The musical went on to earn both Tony
and Drama Desk Award nominations that year.
Porter’s success on the stage with “It
Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues” paved the way for
another theatrical outing and pairing with Eloise Laws. In his semi-autobiographical
“Nat King Cole and Me,” he dramatically documented his
childhood, which was marked by an absentee father and the joy and
pain he heard when listening to his mother’s Nat King Cole
records. This led to a rich imaginary life where the young Porter
actually believed that the legendary crooner was indeed his dad,
and that the love songs Cole sang were secretly being sung to him.
Porter’s moving “Nat King Cole & Me” ran for
two very successful months at the Denver Center for the Performing
Arts and traveled to Houston TX.
2011 has brought nominations from the Jazz Journalists
Association for Best Male Vocalist and a German Record Critics Award.
In the UK, Gregory recorded a session for Jamie Cullum’s BBC
Radio 2 program and featured with Jools Holland on BBC TV’s
‘Later’. On July 4th, Gregory made his UK performance
debut to a sell out crowd at The Pizza Express Jazz Club, London.
Porter continues to gain the admiration of the UK and Europe’s
music and national media with his distinctive style.