Jazz + soul = Gregory Porter

gregory porter

From today’s Sunday Times, my interview [£] with the man who has brought emotion back to the music:

Even now, some critics prefer to call him a soul singer. Porter himself, sipping camomile tea and honey to ease a sore throat a few hours before the Albert Hall, certainly talks readily about his love of Stevie Wonder or Bill Withers. Yet our insistence on placing labels on music frustrates him at times.

“What is jazz?” he asks. “Is it when you put one more note on the top of a chord? That ninth at the top? I’m still trying to figure that one out. I’m still playing with time and rhythms like a jazz singer would do. In terms of energy, I’m coming from the same place. Sometimes I’m trying to demystify the music for myself. I love a 45-minute Mingus tune, but I also love a live performance of Hey Laura. I can be the starting point where people can go on and get into the deepest Coltrane.”

I made a point of mentioning Curtis Stigers elsewhere in the piece, because it seems to me that the people who adore GP would love his music too, even though he’s nowhere near as fashionable —  for reasons I don’t fully understand, but which are partly connected with the fact that he used to be a soft-focus pop idol. Trying to figure out why some names are hip and others aren’t is always a mystifying business. We listen to music with more than our ears. On the subject of taste, cool or otherwise, this Ram Album Club interview with Chris Addison on the subject of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” is full of fascinating observations. Addison had never heard the album before — that’s the central conceit of the RAC series —  and when he did sit down to listen he wasn’t exactly swept away. I don’t mind admitting that I agree with some of the criticisms he makes. Maybe it’s one of those records that’s so soaked in history and politics that we find it hard to judge it objectively, or to approach it as just as another piece of music. Kudos to Addison for being so honest.

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Chief theatre critic for The Times. Twitter: CliveDavisUK Facebook: www.facebook.com/clive.davis.10 Instagram: clivephotos
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