It is rare to find artists nowadays that steer away from the extravagant parade that is entailed with modern performance. Innate talent is often overshadowed by excessive showmanship and the true essence of an artist’s message can become lost – this is what sets Gregory Porter apart from his musical kin.
With only his instrumental ensemble (who were phenomenally entertaining) and his rich, resonant voice, Porter transcended his audience onto a plane of musical freedom and emotional liberty. Performing some of his hit songs such as Holding on, Musical Genocide, and 1960 What, it is clear Porter has become a Jazz titan in his own right. His stage presence was paradoxical: his majestic stance married with his gracious mannerisms of humility was refreshing to behold; often retreating out of the spotlight to foreground the talent of his band after delivering a vocal bewitchment of soul.
From exploring the abandoned avenues of Harlem to metaphorical rivers of emancipation, Porter’s imagery triggered mental movie-like snapshots of his childhood, his present and his future teachings dedicated to his son. His potent poetry reigning side by side with the celestial melodies transformed the Symphony Hall into a church; with Porter ordained in the lessons of life and the importance of musical freedom, remaining loyal to the original meaning of Jazz music.
This was also reinforced with his style of singing, ranging from the soulful, deluxe tones often associated with Barry White to his unshackled scatting, transforming into a passionate cry for emancipation embedded in slave spirituals, which was also explored in his rendition of Wade in the water and his gospel opening to Liquid Spirit.
His supporting act, Kandace Springs was outstanding. Her honeyed tones ignited the audience which was aided with her adroit control on the piano. With a likeness to Esperanza Spalding, it is wise to expect exceptional wonders from such a gifted musician.
Porter’s performance adjoined his audience to the world western societies would rather forget: the oppressed and the abandoned and gave them an absolving spotlight. Through his words, he tore down stumbling blocks that hinder our engagement with what matters most: love, freedom, and an adventurous spirit.