Gregory Porter: 'Be Good'

by Dan Bloom, producer

Gregory Porter and his seven siblings were raised by a single mother who was also a preacher. She sometimes needed the kids to fill out the congregation or sing as a choir, and she loved to base her sermons on their trials and tribulations. These years imbued Porter with spirituality, musicality and lyricism that he now puts to great use, but at the time, he was just trying to find a Dad.

Without a patriarch in the picture, a young Gregory Porter discovered Nat King Cole records like “Nature Boy” and “Pick Yourself Up” and reveled in them. Cole’s messages were often positive and inspiring, teaching the Bakersfield boy lessons of manhood from beyond the grave.

His dedication to Cole would come to benefit Gregory Porter in a most unforeseen way. First, a shoulder injury ended his promising athletic career, and after a pep talk from his mother, a formerly dejected Porter spent more time on jazz, studying the recordings of great artists and palling around with musicians.

After a chance meeting with Hubert Laws, the Juilliard-trained flautist informed Porter that he was working on a tribute to none other than Nat King Cole. Porter began singing a familiar Cole tune and before you knew it, Laws immediately put the greenhorn on the microphone where he delivered a standout performance on the Charlie Chaplin composition, ‘Smile.’

As it happens, Hubert Laws’ sister Eloise, who happened to be attending the session, was set to star in a musical theater piece “It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues.” Laws suggested that Porter audition and he was immediately cast. The show ended up on Broadway and earned Porter enough interest to land a record deal.

Porter’s debut album, Water, was nominated for a Grammy, and now he’s moving at full speed ahead with his sophomore effort, Be Good. One of the new songs, “Real Good Hands” was nominated for another Grammy last year. Gregory Porter is a talent on the rise, and when he opens his mouth to sing or speak, his soul shines through. This characteristic is bolstered by the trend of ending albums with a capella vocals. This choice highlights Porter’s artistic moxie, vulnerability and charisma.

Gregory Porter’s stated goal is to spread love around the world, and with his touring schedule, you actually start to take him literally. Porter is touring Europe until late May, then he plays one date in Brazil before returning to the US for a run of shows which includes Charleston, Jacksonville and the Washington DC area. Porter is touring through the year, for a full list of dates, click here (link.)