G LIVE, GUILDFORD
8th December 2014
Rating: ***** (five stars)
Jazz storyteller supreme Gregory Porter wowed a sold-out G Live in Guildford this week with a cultured mix of jazz, soul and blues. A Grammy-winner, he’s paid his musical dues and is now finding recognition in his forties having released his third album on the legendary jazz label Blue Note.
Porter labels himself a jazz singer and is a consummate performer, relaxed and with a stage presence to match his voice and frame. He has an incredible soul-tinged baritone voice, powerful yet gentle and full of emotion.
The set consisted of a perfect mix of ballads and up-tempo numbers, and mercifully few standards. He is a wonderful songwriter and his material is sufficiently strong that he doesn’t feel the need to trade on the familiarity of others’ material.
When he sang the haunting Wolfcry with just Chip Crawford’s piano accompaniment Porter held the crowd transfixed. Other songs beautifully performed included the opener Painted On Canvas, Hey Laura It’s Me and Water Under Bridges. The protest song 1960 What? was a crowd favourite.
During No Love Dying he quickly realised that a Guildford crowd isn’t a raucous sing-along bunch, but he had no irritation and seamlessly moved on with his set.
The tight quartet that backs him is jazz all the way, and in the case of saxophone player Yosuko Sato, a long way. Sato is raised on hard bop rather than Porter’s cool jazz and blues, and he played a jaw-dropping solo during Worksong where it appeared he didn’t breathe for at least a minute.
The perfect acoustics of the G Live meant that the audience heard Porter at his best. His encore track Real Good Hands includes the line I’m a Real Good Man. Which is precisely what he is.