Sunday, January 22, 2012

In Review--As good as it gets

Gregory Porter
Be Good

Ever so often a musician blazes their way into my life--Gregory Porter is one such musician.  Last year I reviewed his sizzling debut Water.  Like other journalists, I leaped onto the Marvin Gaye comparison bandwagon. Oh, yes, there’s much to compare between the two musicians such as powerful voices that move mountains, a storytelling gift, and delightful music arrangements.  On the sophomore CD, Be Good,Gregory roots himself deep with the African-American culture of NYC and currently resides in Brooklyn.  Listen to the rousing third track, On My Way To Harlem in Porter gives homage to Duke Ellington, Marvin Gaye and the author Langston Hughes. He croons, more or less, roars, “You can’t keep me away from where I was born.  I was baptized by my daddy’s horn.”

Porter sings from a vibrant palette and his songs range from the tender, yet ironic title track in which he waxes metaphors about lions and cages, to the sweet homage to his mother, Mother's Song.  Porter swings, croons, roars, and shifts through several mood swings throughout the duration of the recording.  Meanwhile he’s collaborating with producer Brian Bacchus, arranger and Kamau Kenyatta, and the spectacular musicians Chip Crawford (piano), Aaron James (bass), Yosuke Sato (alto sax), Tivon Pennicott (tenor sax), Emmanuel Harrold (drums) and Kenyon Harrold (trumpet).  The warm production, crisps clear horns, and tight jazz rhythm section feels inviting and nostalgic since the music reflects to 1970s jazz and soul music.

Personally, I’m enjoying this entire album from start to finish.  And on this rainy Sunday afternoon, Be Good hits the spot, leaving me in a reflective mood.  A voice and storytelling gift like Porter’s only comes around once or twice in a decade, if even.  Be Good with its mix of jazz elegance, and soulful performances might lead some music fans to shout from rooftops or at least heat up the social networks.  Be Good is so good and too good to pass by without giving the album a listen.