More strings than swing

From my review of Gregory Porter’s latest visit to the Albert Hall:

This might have been a world record. Has anyone in the history of mass marketing dared to perform The Christmas Song when we are still recuperating from Easter? Since this concert was being filmed, there will presumably be a DVD on the market when Santa is loading up his pantechnicon. Full marks to Gregory Porter for getting through the chestnuts and trimmings with a straight face. It says a lot for the way he bonds with his audience that his fans took this odd, not to say cynical, detour in their stride.

Part of the American singer’s appeal rests on his lack of pretension. He possesses a soulful, R&B-meets-jazz voice and sells out venues all over the world, yet there is an Everyman aura about him. Other stars have laser shows and dancers and raunchiness. Porter just has that famous hat and a sense of swing. Nat King Cole similarly made sophisticated craftsmanship look easy, conquering Las Vegas in the process, so you can see why Porter dedicated an album to him. It is just a pity that the disc focuses on the schmaltzier, strings-driven side of the great man’s work. On the sleeve Porter holds a copy of Cole’s 1950s LP After Midnight, a masterpiece of intimate, small group swing vocals. Sadly, there is only the occasional nod to it in the playlist.

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