Now everyone loves Gregory Porter. Liquid Spirit is his third album, and his first on the prestigious Blue Note label. I bought his debut album, ‘Water’, on the Motema Music label, as an import in early 2011, as it had not yet been released in the UK. At this time Porter had a gig, performing every Thursday night at a small jazz club in the Upper West Side of Manhattan called Smoke, and I just happened to be visiting New York on a Thursday in April 2011. Of course I had to go that night. His band was the same as it is now with Chip Crawford on piano, Aaron James on bass, Emanuel Harrold on drums and Yosuke Sato on alto sax. The concert was superb. Porter was spellbinding and the band were really tight. That was the first time I saw him live, in an audience of perhaps 50 people. The last time was at the Bluesfest last October, at the Royal Albert Hall, where he had a sell-out audience of over 5,000 people eating out of the palm of his hand.
There are many reasons for his popularity. He is a distinctive figure, being a giant of a man, even without his trademark modified Kangol Summer Spitfire hat and smart suit. A genial giant who gives off friendly vibes. His songs are often about his childhood with an inspirational preacher mother, being a black kid in a white neighbourhood, and about his relationships, which strike a chord with his audience. Then there is his voice. His rich baritone immediately quietens a room whether he is singing jazz, soul, gospel or blues songs. On Liquid Spirit there are some covers such as ‘The In Crowd’ and the jazz standard ‘I Fall In Love Too Easily’, but the best songs are his own compositions. ‘Hey Laura’, ‘No Love Dying’ and ‘Water Under Bridges’, where he is just accompanied by the piano, are all excellent demonstration tracks.
I would not be able to forget this album even I tried. Gregory Porter is looking down at me, smiling, from the cover of the double LP of Liquid Spirit on our record racks in the shop whenever I look up, and I know that not many days will go by before one of my colleagues will be unable to resist playing ‘Hey Laura’ on the system in our reception, or in one of the studios, and I will hear, once again, that deep, warm, friendly voice singing the opening line “Hey Laura, it’s me”.