Gregory Porter, Still Rising: The Collection, Blue Note ***

'Right Where You Are' is the big pick of Still Rising: The Collection just as the song also was on Freedom & Surrender You know when a jazz musician has reached a certain celebrity level when you see their face on a poster randomly in a railway …

Published: 6 Nov 2021. Updated: 27 days.

'Right Where You Are' is the big pick of Still Rising: The Collection just as the song also was on Freedom & Surrender

You know when a jazz musician has reached a certain celebrity level when you see their face on a poster randomly in a railway station as you can at the moment around London for Gregory Porter's Still Rising: The Collection. The thought of the great jazz singer doing small jazz clubs as Porter did not so very long ago compared with the sort of supersized venues he does nowadays is fairly preposterous because the clubs wouldn't be able to afford him and even if they could would be too small to accommodate his enormous fan base if somehow they rustled up the dosh to fluke him on even at mate's rates. But something deep has got lost in the process in recent years. Certainly if you like gloss then nowadays that's what you get on a Gregory Porter record. Otherwise please go back and revel in Water, Be Good and Liquid Spirit and you will know why he was special in the first place and yet there's still time for the old magic to return surely? And look only last year he did a real jazzhead treatment to fine effect with Jimmy Heath which was the best jazz vocal we heard all year and seemed like the pure witchcraft all over again he is so capable of conjuring. However, the new record is not all bad news and if you are new to Porter you may think it's the best thing since sliced bread because of course he still has a marvellous voice and there's a lot of going backwards and forwards all packaged up and polished for easy consumption not forgetting to fold in a Christmas song either. Duets involving both the living, and the dead, more of which later, are not always ideal however! His audience certainly are now not hardcore jazz fans or even at all and the approach these last few years is to cater for this new audience drawn by his great personality and burgeoning media appeal whether discovered on his food-themed podcasts or not. The first disc here is a trot through songs that contributed to his jazz superstardom with 'Hey Laura' understandably kicking the collection off. But the Jeff Goldblum collab is more plodding to say the least! Far better is the incredibly sincere and powerful duet with Lizz Wright on 'Right Where You Are' which is the pick of this extensive offering striking tingling spines all over again even if you know its context on Lizz record Freedom and Surrender when it also stole the show. Gregory responds to the deeply serious Lizz who like him has gospel roots with a remarkable vocal. I have no idea why they asked Gregory to duet with Moby but the results are a powerhouse treatment that makes the similar voice of Rag 'n' Bone Man look puny by comparison. The worst aspect of Still Rising: The Collection and against the odds it's not the riddle of Moby but the beyond the grave collaborations with Buddy Holly, Ella and Julie London. I'm not a fan of this kind of tinkering at all. Troy Miller's production on the new stuff isn't shy but it isn't subtle either (he's also worked with Diana Ross recently and that's even less to my taste). Let's hope Gregory strips things back a bit more in the future. But for all its flaws this release is a step forward from last year's disappointing All Rise. Next time let's hope for less glossy production. Stephen Graham

Tags: Albums and EPs

Paul Edis, Tony Momrelle, Carroll Thompson, Alex Webb’s British Standard Time, Jo Harrop, Chris Standring and the Geoff Gascoyne Orchestra, Cadogan Hall

Hosted by Jazz FM presenter Nigel Williams this Hampstead Jazz Club and Lateralize Records presentation entitled ‘’An Evening of New Jazz Fireworks’’ had numerous elements to it. Begun by a gentle solo, at times, meditative and nuanced piano …

Published: 6 Nov 2021. Updated: 24 days.

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Hosted by Jazz FM presenter Nigel Williams this Hampstead Jazz Club and Lateralize Records presentation entitled ‘’An Evening of New Jazz Fireworks’’ had numerous elements to it. Begun by a gentle solo, at times, meditative and nuanced piano performance by Paul Edis drawing from his new record The Still Point Of The Turning World the set included several pieces from the album with ‘Plaisir d’amour’ the most personal, Edis telling us how he has played the 18th century Jean-Paul-Égide Martini piece in various forms over the years including his time as a church organist. It was a gentle start to the evening and Edis returned later in more animated fashion combining with strings and harp.

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Vocals otherwise were a big factor in the first half with the soulful Tony Momrelle effective on ‘Give Me the Night’ and ‘The Very Thought of You’ with Alex Webb at the piano and the arranger of new album British Standard Time songs from which were among the mix. Lovers rock legend Carroll Thompson gave a very persuasive account of ‘Lullaby of Birdland’ and ‘Mad About the Boy’ with trumpeter Andy Davies’ solo and rapport with Thompson strong.

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Jo Harrop turned in the best vocal performance of all delivering particularly well on ‘The Heart Wants’ from her new album excellently accompanied by double bassist Geoff Gascoyne, with his erstwhile Jamie Cullum Twentysomething bandmate drummer Seb De Krom engaged and alert in the rhythm section. Gascoyne wrote the arrangements for expat Englishman in LA guitarist Chris Standring's new album Wonderful World also launched at this bumper Cadogan Hall show and Standring's elegant, lean, lines and extensive elaboration on a range of standards including ‘Night and Day’ and ‘Estate' plus his own ‘Sunrise’ from his Blue Bolero album and a expert take on Donald Fagen’s ‘Maxine’ dominated the second half.

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Chatting to the audience Standring told us about a medical emergency that he underwent when he thought that he was suffering from heartburn at home in LA. But it turned out to be far more serious and a blocked artery no less. Despite such a scare he is clearly well recovered and turned in a very accomplished performance and told us he returns for dates in London next March at Pizza Express in Holborn. Gascoyne’s arrangements avoided being too lush and yet conveyed the classic atmosphere that Standring wanted for his new standards record. The 1940s feel was complemented by Jo Harrop's costume change into a white vintage styled dress later when the singer returned to guest with Standring on ‘What a Wonderful World.’ Stephen Graham

Carroll Thompson, top, Jo Harrop, Tony Momrelle and Chris Standring at Cadogan Hall