When it comes to describing the talent of Gregory Porter, Sublime and Superb are maybe the best adjectives one could use to give a glimpse of what this Artist from California is able to deliver during his live performances. Seen earlier this year in London at the Calling Festival opening for a legend such as Stevie Wonder and fresh from his 2014 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album with Liquid Spirit, 43-year-old Porter promises to delight us with a long career of great jazz pieces and even greater live shows.
Wednesday evening at the iTunes Festival started with a very-well received surprise when legendary soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer joined American Grammy-winning conductor Eric Whitacre on stage during his opening performance. After an hour of ethereal choirs that climaxed with a beautifully awkward gregorian version of Depeche Mode‘s Enjoy The Silence, it was time to set the stage for Porter.
A piano, a microphone, a sax, drums, a counter-bass and nothing else: As if announcing that Porter and his band’s enormous talent is enough to fill the Roundhouse stage.
Porter’s amazingly charismatic vocal power and stage presence, his fascinating way of controlling the band and guiding the audience to hand clap and chant, gives hope for the future of “mainstream jazz“, whereas most of “black” celebrities – with very few exceptions – are failing to bring quality soul music to the big audiences.
His baritone voice mixed with his passion for interacting with the public literally altered the energy in the venue. Often improvising, he and the band took us on a journey through southern soul jazz, ranging from Gospel to Blues, from Jazz to Soul. For few moments it would feel like being in a church only to be catapulted a second later to an old club in the 50s.
Also joined on stage by Birmingham’s raising star Laura MVula for Water Under Bridges, Porter often left plenty of room for solos to drummer Emanuel Harrold and sax player Yosuke Sato who delivered so perfectly that the audience ended up asking themselves if it’s actually possible for a human being to do what they were doing with their instruments.
In an industry where mainstream music doesn’t sound good and authentic anymore, Porter’s intellectual stature brought to the iTunes Festival two hours of good vibes and quality jazz, one you wish one day will educate the thousands of mislead youngsters who think what they hear on radio or see on MTV is actually music.
Let’s hope for more Gregory Porters to come.
Complete Set List:
Someday We’ll All Be Free
On My Way to Harlem
No Love Dying
Water Under Bridges (feat. Laura Mvula)
Be Good (Lion’s Song)