What would be Gregory Porter’s highlights of the last three years?
Maybe Liquid Spirit, the Californian jazz man’s third album, connecting with British audiences (it’s gone platinum) and that success being replicated around the world, with the 2013 release selling a million copies and becoming the most streamed jazz album ever. Or maybe Porter would pick winning a Grammy (2014 Best Jazz Vocal Album) or making his Glastonbury or Ibizian debuts …
Jazz, soul, R&B, house, EDM, pop, even ballroom – those various moments of the last three years point up a key fact: for all his jazz chops Gregory Porter is a singer/songwriter/performer who won’t be defined or confined. His magic, and his artistry, know no limits. Better still, he wears that knowledge and experience lightly – they don’t come much cooler, funnier, smarter or more relaxed than GP. He might dress sharp but he rolls loose.
Porter himself knows the importance of not giving up – a promising American footballer who won an athletic scholarship to San Diego State University, his sports career was curtailed by a shoulder injury. Then, pursuing music, he would be 40 before he broke through and became known outside jazz cognoscenti circles. Porter was raised – along with seven siblings – by a single mother in Bakersfield. Many of his social and political beliefs he learnt from her, not least through her work as a preacher and that sense of mission and purpose informs the lyrics of his current album.
Given all the time he’s spent in the UK, this thoughtful man has had opportunity to reflect on the reasons for his huge popularity here.
“As far as I can discern, you guys don’t throw people away. And you cherish a soulful expression, a real heartfelt expression. That’s what I come away with. And there’s an honesty in my lyrics because they’re coming out of personal experience. I feel what I’m singing, and I think people in the UK respect that, the way I respect them.”
The highlights of the next three years? Gregory Porter won’t be taking anything for granted. He worked his tail off to get to this point, creating opportunities and magic along the way. Now, with his stunning new album Take Me To The Alley, he’s embarking on wowing the world all over again.