Blue Note has unveiled the cover of Gregory Porter’s debut for the label as you can see above. Set your alarm clocks for 17 September in the States (the day before presumably in the UK). Here’s Gregory with Chip Crawford accompanying him on a live ‘in session’ take of ‘No Love Dying’ mooted to be on the record. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=D2v1gS_VRBU
Pianist and music director Chip Crawford, drummer Emanuel Harrold, bassist Aaron James, alto saxophonist Yosuke Sato, and tenor saxophonist Tivon Pennicott are all on the record, plus, on a few cuts, trumpeter Curtis Taylor, and organist Glenn Patscha are added. The record is produced by Brian Bacchus with arranger and associate producer Kamau Kenyatta also on board. Songs include, besides the title track: ‘Musical Genocide’; a take on the Ramsey Lewis-Dobie Gray crowd pleaser ‘The “In" Crowd’; Abbey Lincoln and Max Roach’s ‘Lonesome Lover’; and Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne’s ‘I Fall in Love Too Easily’. Other songs are: ‘Water Under Bridges’; ‘Movin’’; ‘Wolf Cry’; and ‘Brown Grass’. The ballad ‘Hey Laura’; ‘Wind Song’; and as mentioned earlier ‘No Love Dying’ also are thought to appear plus ‘When Love Was King,’ and the jazz-funk number, ‘Free’.
Dana Masters, Live at McHugh’s Basement, Belfast, danamastersmusic.com ****
Launched at the Lyric theatre in Belfast in March this EP was recorded in December last year across the city at McHughs where word first spread in this jazz-obsessed city about the extraordinary soul and gospel-soaked voice of US singer Masters now living not far away in Lisburn.
Masters had inevitably caught the ear of Van Morrison who asked her to sing with him at a now fabled Harp bar show the previous New Year’s Eve, and she has subsequently reached big audiences as Van’s best backing singer to my mind since Katie Kissoon.
Here she is her own person. And it’s a jaw droppingly raw version of ‘Motherless Child’ to begin this highly accessible but very real set of five songs backed by a band featuring the robust, tasteful presence of trumpeter Linley Hamilton who appeared with her on 2013’s JazzNBelfast here within a small horn section that has soulful tenor saxophonist Dave Howell blending beautifully with Hamilton in a kind of a sun-dazed, gauzy, engagingly retro way their sound dressed up with an arranging flair Pee Wee Ellis would be proud of. Howell has a very emotive sax solo breaking through here on the opener.
Rock drummer Paul “Hammy” Hamilton, who was on acclaimed singer/songwriter Foy Vance’s album Joy of Nothing, has a big part to play here because he has also remarkably, produced, engineered and recorded the album, mixing and mastering it too, and it sounds different to usual jazz production. Basically you need to turn it up: forget politeness and feel the rough God rising, to borrow from a Van lyric. Having different input from outside the jazz bubble (look at what Bad Seeds producer Nick Launay did on the marvellous new Cassandra Wilson album and you’ll maybe see what I mean) is very healthy.
‘Funny Valentine’ has plenty of energy to it and Dana speaks to the audience at the beginning of Corinne Bailey Rae’s ‘Like a Star’ sounding a little emotional and she gets plenty of love from the audience throughout. It feels like the band is in the room with you, and there is an intimacy and emotional pull to this EP. That’s Masters’ skill as a singer, moving beyond genre, the inflection of maybe Randy Crawford a little on this song, Johnny Taylor’s keyboards empathetic again sounding like a 1970s jazzer, the horns achingly real Linley Hamilton sounding like Randy Brecker here taking a peach of a solo the horns then riffing off the electric piano. Dana has that great jazz affinity when she is singing popular material in her decorative flourishes caressing the melody, something pop and rock singers just can’t always do (hello Annie Lennox!) and it is a transformative experience turning a pop ditty into something more transcendental
‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Smile’ complete the EP, the version of ‘Blue Moon’ for older jazz listeners, again Rodgers and Hart material getting a look in after ‘Funny Valentine’ earlier, is the sentimental “old swinger” of a number, Taylor introducing ‘Smile’ by choosing a lulling vibes-like setting on his keys that transports you into a different space. The song always has a stillness to it and Masters exploits this. A dream of a singer: the world only now needs to hear the full length studio version but this is made with a lot of love direct from the source where the story first began: at McHughs.