Gregory Porter @ Sheffield City Hall

In the space of a few short years, Gregory Porter has become the nation’s favourite jazz artist. His most recent album Liquid Spirit won him a Grammy and remains high in the charts. The man with the unusual hat crafts songs of warmth and soul, soaked in the experiences of growing up with an absent father and in a racially prejudiced America, but tempered by the gospel faith of his mother.

Experienced live, Porter’s rich and impossibly deep baritone is a thing of sheer class, much like the man himself. His is a voice made for the concert hall, trained in the churches of the South, reverberating around the room like a freight train.  In the tradition of the best jazz singers, Porter uses his voice as an instrument, often soaring above and beyond the rest of the band, but then returning to scat around with the sax and trumpet, complementing each other beautifully. The musicianship on display is blinding! Moving effortlessly between the more soulful crooner tunes like Be Good (The Lion’s Song) , the smooth grooves of Hey Laura, through to the straight-up be-bop of 1960 What?, this is a band who make it look effortless. Perhaps because he knows he is the coolest man ever to walk the planet, Porter seems content to let his band shine, allowing for long and free-flowing musical interludes, even allowing his drummer to finish the show with an astonishing 10 minute solo.

There is an intimacy to the performance that is easy to get lost in – I believe I actually stopped breathing for the entirety of No Love Dying. Porter sings with such depth of feeling and such conviction that it is a joy to be a part of the experience. Welcome to the lounge room of jazz.

Words by Ali Bianchi

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