“I firmly consider myself a jazz singer but I enjoy blues, southern soul, and gospel,” says Gregory Porter. “Those elements make their way inside my music. And I’ve always heard them in jazz.” Indeed, the singer’s forthcoming third album Liquid Spirit—his debut for legendary Blue Note label, out on September 17—captures all of these elements beautifully, a organic blend that springs from the singer’s understanding and feel for the close relationship of these traditions. His gorgeous, forceful baritone, his assured songwriting—he composed all but three of the album’s fourteen songs—and his easy adaptability illustrate something Nate Chinen wrote about him in the New York Times: “Gregory Porter has most of what you want in a male jazz singer, and maybe a thing or two you didn’t know you wanted.”
The singer has experienced a stratospheric rise over the last few years. His mother was a minister and was steeped both in gospel and the music of Nat “King” Cole, but he initially gravitated towards sports, attending San Diego State University on a football scholarship. But he began singing at school, and before long he devoted himself to music, eventually moving to Brooklyn. His 2010 debut album Water earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal album and its follow-up earned a Grammy bid for Best Traditional R&B Performance, indicating his preternatural ease in multiple styles. Porter is joined by pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold, and saxophonist Yosuke Satoh.
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