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How Do You Like Your Jazz?

April 2, 2014 - Phyllis Sigal
Do you like your jazz heavy on soul? Do you like your jazz full of heart? Do you like your jazz brimming with intelligent yet poignant lyrics? Do you like your jazz sung to you with clear-as-a-bell vocals?

Well, if you answered yes to any of those questions, you will love Gregory Porter, Grammy-winning jazz artist who performed April 1 at the Cabaret at Theater Square in Pittsburgh.

The concert was part of the BNY Mellon/Jazz Presents Jazzlive series, a project of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, which also will present Sean Jones Quartet, Christian McBride Trio and the Robert Glasper Experiment this month. (www.trustarts.org)

Porter's album, "Liquid Spirit," is the 2014 Grammy winner for Best Vocal Jazz Album.

And "liquid" is a great description of his voice: smooth, solid, hearty, clear — yet with an unexpected and interesting intonation in his delivery.

His debut album, "Water," earned a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album, while his second album, "Be Good," earned a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance.

He wooed the crowd at the Cabaret, and got an especially rousing response to Grammy-nominated "Hey Laura."

When Porter sang, "Hey Laura, it's me, sorry but I had to ring your doorbell so late," some ladies in the audience sang back to him, "It's alright! It's alright!" Apparently many wouldn't mind if he rang their doorbell so late.

He didn't sing one of my favorites, "Real Good Hands," with the lyrics, "Mama don't you worry 'bout your daughter 'cause you're leaving her in real good hands, I'm a real good man," which I think would make a perfect mother/son-in-law wedding dance.

But, he sang plenty of others: "Be Good," "Water Under Bridges," "1960 What?," "Our Love," "On My Way to Harlem," which he said he wrote when he met his band members when he was on his way to Harlem.

And those band members were extraordinary, especially his sax player, Yosuke Sato, and pianist/music director Chip Crawford.

The venue for the concert, the black-box style theater, Cabaret at Theater Square, was outstanding, seating about 220 at the sold-out concert. An efficient wait staff brought food (provided by next door's Meat and Potatoes restaurant) and beverages to patrons before and during the show, which lasted around 85 minutes.

I could've heard more of that liquid voice, that's for sure.

Take a listen to Gregory Porter.

And if you like him, you'll get an opportunity to see him at the Pittsburgh Jazzlive International Festival June 20-22 in Pittsburgh, the lineup of which was just announced this morning (April 2). For more about the event, log onto TrustArts.org/jazzlivefest.

He's also going to be in Cleveland on June 27.

But, you better catch him when he's in this country, which according to his tour schedule doesn't seem too often — just a few dates in Chicago, New Orleans, D.C. and Newport. He's globetrotting to France, Germany, Japan, Scotland, Canada, Italy, Austria, Poland and more!

One last note: When I first heard him — my husband Bruce has Porter playing in the car practically all the time! — I wasn't quite sold.

Well, I'm sold now. Gregory Porter is my new favorite.

 
 

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