Picture sitting in a 1950’s Harlem Jazz club with Tom Collins in hand. Art Blakey on drums, Chet Baker – trumpet, Thelonius Monk & Art Tatum on piano, Oscar Pettiford – double bass and Sonny Rollins on the sax. This is the caliber of musicians that came to De Montfort Hall, Leicester to back up the sensational artist that is Gregory Porter.
Opening the show was Nashville Jazz lioness Kandace Springs. With a rip-roaring voice that shook the auditorium from her petite frame, the pianist accompanied by double bass and drums, lulled the audience with her cover of Roberta Flack‘s ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’. As she crescendo’d through the song I heard snatches of “Wow who is she?”, “What a powerful voice” and “She doesn’t even need a mic!” all comments I too was thinking. Other songs performed were ‘Rain Falling’, ‘Talk to Me’ and the beautiful ‘Place to Hide’ all taken from Kandace’s debut album ‘Soul Eyes’ due out 1st July.
As the stage lighting changed to basking warm hues and a sextet appeared, cue the entrance to an exuberant Gregory Porter with a slightly more up-tempo and extended version of ‘Holding On’. The crowd were explosive after this first song, whistling, whooping and hollering at bearing witness to such a superstar in this sold-out Leicester show.
Porter had obviously done his homework and remarked on how Leicester were doing in the football, “I hear you guys in Leicester are all pretty excited about football!” to which the already electrified crowd began cheering “…you know I used to play football when I was younger” he said before he began telling a joke “…bear with me, I already got your money so I’m gonna talk A Lot, we’ll get to the music later!” This lightheartedness of the gentle giant stood on stage, made you feel relaxed, as if in the presence of friends.
Throughout the 2hr show, Gregory Porter threw in songs from debut album ‘Water’, ‘Be Good’, ‘Liquid Spirit’ and new album ‘Take Me to the Alley’ due out 6th May (his late mother’s birthday). I particularly loved the extended versions of songs with his musicians having their moment to shine and show off their capabilities. ‘On My Way To Harlem’ was one such song with ear stimulating solos by saxophonist Tivon Pennicott and drummer Emanuel Harrold met by rapturous applause.
Porter and his band were a tight unit on the night, you could clearly see that he was in tune with the musicians, scatting as his spirit entwined with the melodies. With improvised lyrics on tracks like ‘Musical Genocide’ performed with a tropical rhythm – once again Porter showcased his love of crossing genres.
‘Hey Laura’, ‘1960 What’ and ‘Liquid Spirit’ were real crowd-pleasers with the audience joining in chorus’, clapping and dancing in their seats, even new songs ‘Take Me to the Alley’ and ‘Don’t Lose Your Steam’ were sung by the crowd indicating strongly that the new album (not even yet released!) may punch just as highly as ‘Liquid Spirit’.
As the show ended with standing ovation and the audience floated out of the auditorium, giddy and high, Gregory Porter had one last surprise as he came out to meet his fans, take photo’s and have a quick chat – what a gent!
Gregory Porter‘s album ‘Take Me to the Alley’ is out 6th May, to pre-order visit iTunes