Blue Note Records has announced a September 17 release date for Liquid Spirit, the remarkable major label debut from GRAMMY-nominated jazz and soul singer Gregory Porter. The 14-track album is further justification for Porter’s quick ascent into the top ranks of jazz and R&B singers today, and it also features 10 new originals which showcase Porter’s innate gift for writing poignant songs based upon personal experiences with a relatable and emotional immediacy. Also included is a stirring rendition of the jazz standard “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” as well as covers of Abbey Lincoln’s “Lonesome Lover” and Ramsey Lewis’ hit “The ‘In’ Crowd.”
“I firmly consider myself a jazz singer but I enjoy blues, southern soul, and gospel,” says Porter. “Those elements make their way inside my music. And I’ve always heard them in jazz.” Indeed, Porter wields one of the most captivating baritone voices in music today. It emits enormous soul that conveys both the emotions and intellect of any given song without relying on vocal histrionics. In The New York Times, Nate Chinen wrote: “Gregory Porter has most of what you want in a male jazz singer, and maybe a thing or two you didn’t know you wanted.” Jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater praised Porter in the pages of JazzTimes by saying, “We haven’t had a male singer like him in a long time. He’s such a wonderful writer. He’s a story teller.”
On Liquid Spirit, Porter retains the same core musicians that accompanied him on his previous two albums – pianist and music director, Chip Crawford, drummer Emanuel Harrold, bassist Aaron James, alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato, and tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott. On a few selections, Porter complements that ensemble with trumpeter Curtis Taylor, and organist Glenn Patscha. Producer Brian Bacchus also returns, as well as arranger and associate producer Kamau Kenyatta.
Porter sees Liquid Spirit as a logical progression in his burgeoning discography as it touches on some of the same themes, particularly the highs and lows of romance, his childhood, and socio-political observations. More pointedly, he views the title-track, a rousing, hand-clapping gospel-jazz romp, dealing with replenishing “thirsty” listeners with more substantial music, as the flipside to last year’s “Bling Bling,” a blistering song on his previous album Be Good on which the protagonist had so many artistic gifts to give but no one to give them to. Similar sentiments occur on “Musical Genocide,” on which Crawford hammers a dark rhythmic figure against James’ bluesy bass accompaniment as Porter declares his refusal of accepting the insistent squashing of quality, diverse music and culture by a mainstream in favor of disposable, homogenized pap.
In part, these songs are based upon Porter’s reflections on new fans, worldwide, who come to him saying, “Where have you been?” or “How come I’ve never heard you before.” “Not saying that I am ‘what is,’ Porter says, “But I think maybe what I’m doing is what people actually want to hear. There are some people who want that liquid spirit – a soulful, thoughtful sound – and they haven’t been getting it.”