North Charleston Performing Arts Center
5001 Coliseum Drive, North Charleston SC
Gregory Porter was born in Los Angeles, raised in Bakersfield, and is now living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, Gregory Porter has made the world his musical home.
With a voice that can caress or confront, embrace or exhort, Gregory Porter exhibits such an incredible degree of vocal mastery that no less a jazz luminary than Wynton Marsalis has gone on record to call him "a fantastic young singer," which makes the fact that Water is his recording debut even more impressive.
A debut release it may be, yet Water flows with a sense of timelessness that reflects the seasoned talents of the giants of blues, gospel and soul that have influenced Porter throughout his career. Some of the singers that Porter cites as influential are familiar - Nat King Cole, Joe Williams, and Donny Hathaway - and others - such as the pastor of the church he attended as a child among them - may never realize their impact on his development as an artist. While the work of singers such as Hathaway or Cole obviously helped to shape Porter's vocal styling, his own world view, as evidenced in his seven original compositions and his striking interpretation of classic songs such as "But Beautiful", and "Skylark" adds an emotional intensity that makes each of the albums's eleven tracks speak so eloquently.
The album Water was produced by saxophonist, pianist and composer Kamau Kenyatta, who Porter refers to as his "best friend." In fact, it is Kenyatta who bears much of the responsibility for Porter's career trajectory, which can be traced back to Porter's early days singing in small jazz clubs in San Diego. He lived there while at San Diego State University which he attended on a football scholarship, as an outside linebacker, until a shoulder injury sidelined him permanently. Recognizing his talents, Kenyatta - along with saxophonist Daniel Jackson (Ray Charles, Buddy Rich, Art Farmer, and more) - nurtured the burgeoning performer, and, as Porter says, "taught him what he needed to know." Kenyatta invited Porter to visit him in the studio in Los Angeles, where he was producing the flutist Hubert Laws" Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole.
Certainly Kenyatta was aware of Porter's childhood infatuation with Cole's music, and certainly he could hear the echoes of Cole's mellow baritone in Porter's own voice. What he could not have predicted was that when Laws heard Porter singing along when he was tracking the Charlie Chaplin-penned 'smile," the flutist would be so impressed with the young singer that he would choose to include a "bonus" track of Porter singing the song on the album. Just as serendipitous was Laws" sister, Eloise's, presence that day in the studio. A highly respected singer and recording artist in her own right, Eloise was about to join the cast of a new musical theater work, "It Ain't Nothin" But the Blues." Although he'd only had minimal theatrical experience to that point (in the Doo Wop musical "Avenue XÃ¢?Â), Porter eventually was cast in one of eight lead roles when the play opened in Colorado at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, and eventually followed it to Off-Broadway and then Broadway theater, where the NY Times, in its 1999 rave review, mentioned Porter among the show's "powerhouse line up of singer." "It Ain't Nothin" But the Blues" went on to earn both Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations that year. Although he now says, "I never felt that my career was going to be strictly in the theater," Porter's success on stage with "It Ain't Nothin" But the Blues" paved the way for another theatrical outing and pairing with Eloise Laws.
In his semi-autobiographical "Nat King Cole and Me," he dramatically documented his childhood, which was marked by an absentee father and the joy and pain he heard when listening to his mother's Nat King Cole records.
Apparently, one day, when his mother heard her young son singin