Gregory Porter at the Royal Albert Hall
A huge and warm welcome awaited Gregory Porter’s modest entrance to the cavernous Royal Albert Hall, which was all but sold out. Throughout the concert this disparity between the devotion of the jazz icon’’s audience and his down-to-earth, unassuming character added extra power to his performance. The star’s voice, as rich and vibrant as ever, danced lightly through the melodies with a surprising flexibility. In For All We Know, the vocalist slid up and down his range with a riveting ease, hitting blue notes here and bending pitches there.
It was exciting to see that Porter has fully relaxed into his role as a singer of prodigious quality, and perhaps this is the reason behind his humility. The musician doesn’t see what he does as particularly special; it is just what he loves. When addressing the crowd after the opening cover of Nat King Cole’s Mona Lisa, the performer said he was going to sing his tunes and feel good. Porter then added that he hoped everyone else would feel good too, showing that he has plenty of love left over to share with his fans. This was expressed even more abundantly in numbers such as But Beautiful and Sweet Lorraine; the smiling, exuberant quality of the singing itself; and the small amount of talking he did between songs. The American singer explained his strong connections with family, the difficulty of not having a father (expressed in I Wonder Who My Daddy Is) and how Cole acted as a surrogate.
But as every great jazz leader knows, however, it is not all about them. Porter, accompanied on this occasion by his band and a full orchestra, gave them all room to breathe – as, in fact, he usually does. This allowed the incredible saxophonist (Tivon Pennicott) to take control. In L-O-V-E, for example – a short but sweet ode to the excitement and difficulty of love – the instrumentalist flew off into a truly virtuosic solo, which was received ravenously by the audience
This classic jazz show, comprised of tracks by Cole – or else inspired by him – managed to revive a genre tradition that otherwise seems rather forgotten. Having a concert hall full of people gather for an evening of musical entertainment was the status quo throughout much of the 20th century’s jazz, but as live jams and improvisational gigs have largely taken over, it was refreshing and somewhat nostalgic to experience this much more conversational and intimate style of performance.
Photo: Bruno Bollaert
For further information and future events visit Gregory Porter’s website here.
Watch the video for Hey Laura here: