July 28, 2015 - 8:30 pm
American singer-songwriter Gregory Porter, backed by his quintet, brings his warm baritone and charismatic presence to Byblos for a one of a kind jazz and soul night.
After just 3 albums, including 2014 Grammy winner “ Liquid Spirit”, Gregory Porter is already widely regarded as one of the finest singers of his time. His show at Byblos promises to be a milestone for all soul and jazz fans.
Gregory Porter is an artist from another time, catapulted into the 21st Century and now firmly established as one of today’s great vocalists. Combining elements of jazz, soul, gospel and blues, Porter has taken his unique baritone voice to combine it with a keen sense of melody and often piercing lyricism, making his interpretations of pop and jazz standards wonderful and his own compositions transcendent.
Gregory Porter was born in Los Angeles, California, but grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his mother was a minister. As a child, he fell under the spell of his mother’s Nat King Cole records, learning to imitate and sing exactly like Cole. This led him to what became a lifelong passion for vocal jazz with an amalgam of other musical styles. After a shoulder injury ended his college football career, Porter returned to his love of music.
He began performing in local jazz clubs, which is where he met saxophonist, composer, and pianist Kamau Kenyatta who became his mentor and introduced him to flutist Hubert Laws, who featured Porter’s vocals on a track on his 1998 album Hubert Laws Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole.
His solo debut album, Water, on Motema Records, turned heads in the music world and was very well received by the press. The album, which featured a mysterious picture of Porter (who always wears an unusual hat on his head when performing), was mostly a collection of attractive jazz cover songs. In his review of Water, Kevin Le Gendre of the BBC wrote that “Gregory Porter has a voice and musicality to be reckoned with”. The album was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal album at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards.
Porter was also a member of the original Broadway cast of “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues”. His second album, Be Good, which contains many of Porter’s compositions, was released in early 2012, and garnered critical acclaim for both his distinctive singing and his compositions, such as “Be Good (Lion’s Song)”, “Real Good Hands”, and “On My Way to Harlem”. Porter’s own lyrics seem to come from a place of great emotional strength: “Real Good Hands” is a respectful marriage proposal (complete with cornball 70s-style spoken introduction) and “Mother’s Song” is a gospelised paean to family values.
The title track was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards.
In 2013, he signed with Blue Note Records and released his third album Liquid Spirit which is where he really captured the attention of the Jazz world. In its review of Porter’s Liquid Spirit, The New York Times described him as “a jazz singer of thrilling presence, a booming baritone with a gift for earthy refinement and soaring uplift”.
The album was Porter’s first Grammy success as it was awarded Best Jazz Vocal album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards. The win was the culmination of a remarkable rise to the top ranks of Jazz singers for Porter. Liquid Spirit has been re-released by Blue Note as a deluxe edition to celebrate its radio dominating presence and Porter’s growing household name status and features several new additions.
The first is a reworking of album track ‘Water Under Bridges’ as a collaboration with Laura Mvula, a piece which adds an innovative depth to Porter’s catalogue. He also joined forces with the talented Jamie Cullum to record a cover of ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ which further strengthens his versatility.
However the strongest of all the new additions comes in the shape of a yet another cover, Bill Withers’ ‘Grandma’s Hands’, with Ben L’Oncle Soul, which is so moving it leaves your spine tingling.
In just a few short years, Gregory Porter has become one of the most exciting, interesting, countercultural phenomena in the jazz music world, and a breath of fresh air for adult music fans everywhere. He will surely wins more Lebanese fans and hearts at Byblos Festival!
- 2010 : Water
- 2012 : Be Good
- 2013 : Liquid Spirit