Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2014: Jimmy Greene

Gregory Porter

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On June 18, Gregory Porter will be performing in Winnipeg as part of the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Winnipeg Festival. The last time I was this excited about a vocalist coming to town was when Dianne Reeves was here seven or eight years ago. The fact that Gregory Porter just won his first Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album makes this show even more special.

Liquid Spirit is the name of Gregory Porter’s most current recording, and he could not have chosen a better title! You hear the spirit of jazz, the spirit of R&B, the spirit of gospel, the spirit of the blues, liquefied by the richest, most soulful voice to hit the world since Bill Withers. And like Withers, Gregory Porter is also a compelling composer and lyricist, writing songs worthy of the same praise as the legendary “Lean On Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

The title track, “Liquid Spirit,” is an up-tempo, hand-clapping, feel-good gospel tune in the vein of the Nat Adderley classic, “Work Song.” It grabbed me and dragged me happily into his world. His deep-cutting ballads and his up-tempo jazz tunes are great enough to become part of our standard jazz repertoire. His approach to phrasing and storytelling is not only honest but also seamlessly flows in and out the roots, R&B, gospel and jazz traditions, all at the same time.

Who knew a former college football player could be so full of depth and honesty and wield such alarming vocal virtuosity? Listening to his record is like staying in after a hard day, with all of your favorite comforts around you. The last thing you want to do is leave!

Purchasing all of Liquid Spirit is money well spent. I also highly recommend the title track of his previous record, Be Good (Lions Song). It is a quirky, sad waltz of a song that creeps into your heart like a sweet little motherless child.

I will be in the audience on June 18, drinking in as much Liquid Spirit as I possibly can. I hope you will be too!

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