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Gregory Porter: Liquid Spirit

Reviewed by Ismo Tenkanen

Rating: 8/ 10

Soul Express CD of the Month - Autumn 2013

US Blue Note CD, 2013
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1) No Love Dying
2) Liquid Spirit
3) Lonesome Lover
4) Water Under Bridges
5) Hey Laura
6) Musical Genocide
7) Wolfcry
8) Free
9) Brown Grass
10) Wind Song
11) The "In" Crowd
12) Movin'
13) When Love Was King
14) I Fall In Love Too Easily

Liquid Spirit is Gregory Porter's third album, and his first on Blue Note. His first two albums were released on a Motema independent label, but earned him two Grammy nominations, so it was really inevitable that he would be signed by some major label sooner or later. And although I personally had some doubts that Blue Note would turn him a Norah Jones -type of pop star, luckily Gregory has kept his own style.

But what is this style then - as his previous performances range from Bill Withers-influenced early 70s sounding soul music to gospel-inclined songs and straight jazz, including Wayne Shorter compositions? It was obvious that he has to explain the wide range of influences, and he states: “I firmly consider myself a jazz singer but I enjoy blues, southern soul, and gospel,”. “Those elements make their way inside my music. And I’ve always heard them in jazz.”

Indeed, this album continues in virtually the same path that Gregory's previous album Be Good. For those who adored his instantly hummable pop melodies like Real Good Hands on the previous set, can find similar Bill Withers inclined songs like Hey Laura and No Love Dying on this new album. Gregory's interpretation of the The In Crowd is naturally more influenced by Ramsey Lewis' instrumental version than the original Dobie Grey version, although this is a vocal version.

But if you prefer real jazz, there's still plenty of that, as well, and on Pop Matters a reviewer stated that this CD "is absolutely a jazz record" (unlike Jose James' Blue Note debut, which he considered "not really a proper jazz record"). And the musical backdrop here is really solid acoustic rhythm section in a classic jazz style: drums, bass, piano, saxes and trumpet. And I really enjoy the organic feel, there are no compromises for that. Of the jazz oriented cuts, there are plenty of classy tracks on offer. Lonesome Lover is originally a Abbey Lincoln - Max Roach composition, but there are also excellent new tunes like Musical Genocide, Free and Movin'.

I saw Gregory Porter performing live last April at April Jazz Festival (Espoo, Finland), and I was convinced. I still am, after his Blue Note debut, and I can warmly recommend it to anyone who has enjoys both jazz and soul.

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