@ the PizzaExpress Jazz Club
Photography 10 & 11 February 2012 - 7 October 2011
Click an image to enlarge.
Gregory Porter’s Desert Island Discs
Which 2 albums would you take with you to a desert island?
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.