Gregory Porter Motema/Groove Merchants THIS second album from young New York vocalist-composer Gregory Porter, released earlier this year, precedes his first visit to Australia, where he will be headlining at Victoria’s Wangaratta Jazz and Blues Festival, which runs from November 2 to 5. Porter wrote nine of the 12 tracks and the musicians are all long-term associates, including Kamau Kenyatta, who arranged most pieces. Acclaimed as the next big male vocal jazz star, and particularly lauded in Britain and Europe, Porter is from the strong soul school of Donny Hathaway and Curtis Mayfield, with robust jazz elements adding to the mix. His style is an amalgam of Ray Charles with dashes of Kurt Elling and echoes of Nat King Cole. That latter influence is noticeable in the title track Be Good, in waltz time, where the album’s core trio, led by swinging pianist Chip Crawford, is expanded by trumpet, alto and tenor as Porter’s voice swoops and soars with force and style. The album’s tonal colour is announced from track one’s opening bluesy piano chords in Painted on
Canvas, as Porter loops a soul-drenched vocal around the group’s alternating drive and relax pulse. The composer’s poetic ability with lyrics is evident too: ‘‘ We are like children, we’re painted on canvases/ Layers of colour and time/ Can I use the colours I choose?/Can I get some greens with my blues?’’ The most advanced, post-bop number is an uptempo Bling Bling, featuring Porter’s raw, blazing scat plus a highenergy alto solo from Yosuke Sato, Crawford’s speeding piano and a knockout drum break from Emanuel Harrold.