Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2017: Buster Williams (Festival Edition)

Gregory Porter

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With a voice that’s smooth like cherry wine and a personality bursting with charisma, Gregory Porter has been winning over the hearts of audiences across the globe.

After high school, Porter injured his shoulder and was forced to give up a full football scholarship. His mother, one of his biggest influences, passed away shortly after telling him, “Sing, boy, sing.” After singing in various clubs across New York, he was spotted and quickly began his rise to one of the great vocal jazz stars of the day.

Often dubbed “the cat with the hat” for his signature headgear, Porter has a unique style that is firmly rooted in the blues and gospel tradition. His hit, “Musical Genocide,” speaks to the lack of appreciation for the lineage of great musicians who paved the way for the music of today. This was off his album Liquid Spirit, which deals with the themes of spiritual and musical connectivity and release. Porter won the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2013 with Liquid Spirit and in 2017 with Take Me to the Alley.

As a modern-day jazz artist, I often struggle to find the right balance between tradition and innovation. I want to create something that is original enough to be fresh, while respecting and understanding everything that came before. The ideal goal is the complete satisfaction of both the artists on stage as well as the audience members in the house. One thing I admire so much about Porter’s work is his ability to evoke deep resonance with his audience in every performance, and his ability to connect the history of this music to his own. His music is sophisticated and wide-ranging without alienating anyone.

“I’m fully aware that everything I do doesn’t adequately please jazz traditionalists,” he says. “I’m trying to come honestly, really trying to be unpretentious. I’m trying to be appealing, even as a jazz artist, to the non-jazz head. Trying to speak to them as well. I want to speak to the human heart.”

Winnipeg is so fortunate to welcome back Gregory Porter to this year’s Jazz Festival. Check him out on June 22 at the Burton Cummings Theatre. Your heart will thank you.

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