GREGORY Porter was just named the male vocalist and jazz artist of the year in Down Beat’s critics’ poll.
Knowing how hard he has been working on his music, I asked: “After paying your dues for many years, how does it feel to be an overnight success?”
He laughs and almost seems embarrassed: “Yes, it’s very nice. It’s been extraordinary, people say ‘a dream come true’, but I didn’t think such things could exist for me. It’s more than a dream come true, but it’s not the most important thing. The music is more important.”
About his music, composing and writing the lyrics?
“My lyrics I try to approach organically by exploring nature, taking walks and looking inside myself and my past experiences, my desires, in a way sometimes things I even hide. I also harvest my relationships, my friends, I think of their stories and conditions. Any-thing that inspires. The first songs I ever wrote were about personal experiences, so if I think about things that move me emotionally I won’t have trouble accessing that emotion night after night. It’s not a problem thinking about my mother, or lost love or desire. These are things that inhabit my personality period.”
What about the band, Chip Crawford on piano, Aaron James on bass, Emanuel Harrold on drums and Yasuke Sato on alto sax?
“We started working together at a small jazz club in Harlem. They all have individual musical personalities, an individual musical charisma, and we all combine together to make the music that we make. They have a real perspective from their instrument and I’m thankful and appreciative of their contribution to the music on our live performances and recordings.”
I asked about his jazz cap, which looks like an open-faced, peaked balaclava helmet.
“I had it on and a photographer took a picture of me wearing it, and all of a sudden it became popular and everyone wanted me to wear the cap, so it’s become part of me.”
Porter, who comes to jazz via gospel and soul, is the premier jazz vocalist in the world, do not miss him. If you want to listen to him first, Liquid Spirit on Blue Note should be in the CD shops.
• Porter and the band will perform at The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz on Thursday, September 25, and Saturday, September 27.