On Thursday the 12th of April I headed up to Harlem in NYC to see vocalist and composer Gregory Porter performing at the candle lit venue Smoke. Complete with chandeliers, a red curtian stage and a baby grand piano, it was the perfect setting for the music about to be performed.
Gregory took to the stage in front of an excited audience. His album Water was nominated for a Grammy Award last year and he is certainly popular in NYC where his gig was sold out.
Gregory is obviously an extremely kind, gentle man with a captivating voice, you can’t help but beam with a smile while watching him. He owns every part of every word, never missed a beat or a note, sings with honesty and conviction and has a beautiful deep tone.
His songs are each beautiful pieces of art, emotional, honest, intelligent and will have you closing your eyes, breathing in deeply and thinking ‘now that’s real music.’
The musical highlight of the night for me was actually a cover of ‘God bless the child.’ I’ve never heard any cover of any song sung as passionately, convincingly and so incredibly soulfully. The band was fantastic, the groove seemed effortless and all members including Gregory performed with immense enthusiasm for the music and respect for sharing the stage with one another. The band featured Chip Crawford on piano, Yosuke Sato on saxophone, James on drums and Andrew Atkinson on bass.
I was caught by surprise when Gregory started what must be the jazz equivalent of a ‘smash hit’ when he began his song ‘1960 what?.’ The band begun by clapping a simple crotchet rhythm when suddenly the audience burst into a complex polyrhythmic clapping pattern. Gregory entered with commanding vocals with unexpected rhythmic phrasing that had everyone swinging in their chairs. Come the chorus, without any prompting the audience burst out singing Gregory’s lyrics back at him in a call and response formula.
People around me were calling out for their favourite songs, Be Good seemed to be the most in demand, and so Gregory had the band start the song only to surprise everyone including those on stage by singing a different song over the top. The audience was laughing and calling out until he finally broke the excited tension with the first words of Be Good.
My favourite of his original songs was ‘Real Good Hands.’ After a spoken introduction he comes in with the first melodic line, hear it and weep.
Gregory is a flawless performer with a beautiful gift and I have no doubt he will soon receive the world wide recognition he deserves. Check him out and get in on him before everyone else beats you to it!
CHECK OUT HIS SONG 1960 what?