CD review: Gregory Porter – All Rise (Deluxe) 2020: Video, CD cover

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With his sixth album, Gregory Porter delivers once more a perfect dose of jazz, soul, rhythm’n’blues, pop and gospel. In addition to being gifted with a voice of pure velvet (it’s clichéd, but it’s true), the Californian who knows Great Black Music like the back of his band is also a veritable writer.

And in these present (troubled) times, his pen, often synonymous with hope and light, generates healing sounds akin to rejuvenating baths such as on Revival Song, a soft of neo-gospel hymn the embraces the soul and frees the body. A similar sense of wellbeing is also present when Porter dons his crooner lover suit such as on If Love Is Overrated or when he channels Marvin Gaye and George Benson on Faith In Love. Produced with class by Troy Miller (Laura Mvula, Jamie Cullum, Emili Sande), All Rise propels the American toward an increased world recognition and, on this album, Porter reaches audiences well outside the jazz sphere.

Gregory Porter is back after a 3 year hiatus, trumpeting back onto the scene at his own unique pace – towing his latest record, All Rise, in his wake.

His first album of originals in four years (Porter’s last record was 2017’s Nat King Cole & Me) – and his sixth studio offering – is both a celebratory study of Black music and a somber scrutiny of our current world.

Epic, joyous choruses and Porter’s distinctive timbre – in turns silky smooth and throaty – are both present in full, resplendent form. But it’s impossible not to look at All Rise within the context of our times.

Black people are dying in America at alarming rates, still fighting for their lives and liberties and grappling with a government that has never really cared for them. And – even for a man whose musical mission is to spread light and positivity – those issues were impossible to ignore while making this record.

But Porter’s expertise lies in the way he wraps racism, loss, and world-weary heartache in a sweet blend of soul, jazz and gospel. ‘Dad Gone Thing’ sees the musician raging against his absentee father in one moment and forgiving him in the next, and ‘Faith In Love’ offers a delicate expression of love “inside a broken heart or two.”

A trilogy of diamond cuts begins with ‘Mr. Holland’. One of the most sonically delightful tracks on the record, its breezy, southern soul sensibilities and catchy melody – sung in Porter’s resounding baritone – nearly make you miss the sharp-witted irony of the lyrical content. Porter thanks the father of his white lover for making “no trouble” of his skin. “Praising him for treating me normal,” Porter told me during a Zoom call.

‘Modern Day Apprentice’, a gospel-tinged jazz track with easy saxophone that could find a well-deserved place on a Nat King Cole record, is a modern day, instant classic. Each moving part of ‘Everything You Touch Is Gold’ has its own moment on the bluesy, six-minute track, in a song Porter dedicates to his wife.

The deluxe edition of the album ends on a high note, with the explosive blues-infused ‘Revival’, leaving you marvelling at the resilience of one of the world’s most supreme jazz talents.

1. Concorde (3:55)
2. Dad Gone Thing (5:02)
3. Revival Song (3:35)
4. If Love Is Overrated (5:54)
5. Faith In Love (4:56)
6. Merchants Of Paradise (6:03)
7. Long List Of Troubles (4:15)
8. Mister Holland (3:24)
9. Modern Day Apprentice (2:54)
10. Everything You Touch Is Gold (6:03)
11. Phoenix (4:45)
12. Merry Go Round (5:26)
13. Real Truth (6:37)
14. You Can Join My Band (5:51)
15. Thank You (5:20)
16. Revival (3:07)

Gregory Porter - All Rise – Blue Note Records

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