Gregory Porter - All Rise (Advance Review)

Gregory Porter
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Gregory Porter - All Rise

Gregory Porter’s music epitomizes what it means to be identifiable yet distinct. Porter’s powerfully soulful baritone stands as the identifiable constant that connects all of his work – regardless of whether that work consists primarily of originals or covers, studio albums or live. He is, along with Cecile McLorin Salvant, the most talented singer working.

Porter has released a tribute and live album along with four other projects consisting mostly of original music.  Each of those records came from a distinct place that reflected Porter’s varied musical interests, as well as his spiritual underpinnings and biography. The next record  – All Rise – was set to be released in April until the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the date back to Aug. 28.

Gregory Porter - All Rise

Gregory Porter’s music epitomizes what it means to be identifiable yet distinct. Porter’s powerfully soulful baritone stands as the identifiable constant that connects all of his work – regardless of whether that work consists primarily of originals or covers, studio albums or live. He is, along with Cecile McLorin Salvant, the most talented singer working.

Porter has released a tribute and live album along with four other projects consisting mostly of original music.  Each of those records came from a distinct place that reflected Porter’s varied musical interests, as well as his spiritual underpinnings and biography. The next record  – All Rise – was set to be released in April until the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the date back to Aug. 28.

While the jazz courses through all of Porter’s projects, each one resides in a specific artistic place. For example, soulfulness distinguished Be Good, Porter’s second album. All Rise, as the name implies, draws inspiration from the church that quickened the spirit of Porter’s mother.

The energetic “Revival” draws on the restorative power found in the music and preaching that Porter likely heard at tent revivals led by his mother while growing up in Bakersfield. The track features the hand claps, and the call and response vocals through which Porter engages in a musical conversation with his backing vocalists. “Revival” and “Thank You,” a cut that could easily find its way into the praise and worship repertoire of churches around the nation, are two tunes where Porter expresses his nurturing and enduring love of the sanctified church most overtly. However, that upbringing is revealed throughout the album.

Porter channels the church’s prophetic nature along with its commitment to speaking truth to power and to social justice on “Merchants of Paradise,” which is one of stand-out tracks on All Rise. Porter decries a culture that indoctrinates children to elevate  commerce and conspicuous consumption to the level of religious virtues. He decries the impact greed has had on the planet that our children will inherit and ends with a warning that future generations will judge our harshly our neglect of the planet. “One day they’ll go free/they will say/where were you.”

“The Real,” is a stunningly beautiful call for people to surrender all pretense – whether they are entering the house of worship to have a true relationship with God or whether when seeking to enter into a relationship with our fellow humans. “Everybody now can live a lie/they can tell a story/and you dare not ask why.”

However, the record also owes a great deal of debt to the blues – a musical genre that, like gospel, places a premium on honesty and transparency. That comes through most poignantly on “Dad Gone Thing.”  In the past, Porter dealt with his absentee father either by using his to sing about pouring into his son, or by imagining what it would be like to have a loving father in the home. “Dad Gone Thing” finds Porter using his peerless storytelling skills to describe watching his charismatic and talented father use his singing voice to captivate church audiences as he comes to terms with the only connection that Porter has with his dad – that wonderful voice. “You didn’t teach me a dad gone thing/But how to sing.”

Porter, like so many artists, had big plans for the year 2020. The year began with him going on tour with Ledisi. I looked forward to that show, but the Detroit show got postponed until who knows when. Well, if we’re still sheltering in place in August, All Rise certainly gives us something to look forward to at home. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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