Grammy winner Gregory Porter brings jazz back to Page

Gregory Porter is a Grammy-winning jazz vocalist who has garnered widespread critical acclaim for his powerful yet refined voice and his authentic, impassioned delivery. This Thursday he is bringing his soulful sound back to Duke for the second time in two years.

Porter, who is originally from California, has been performing since 1998, although he waited until 2010 to release his debut album “Water.” Since then, he has released two other albums. His latest work, 2013's “Liquid Spirit,” won the Grammy award for best jazz vocal album in 2014.

Also in 2014 was when Porter last sang at Duke. That Spring he performed for a sold-out crowd and completely blew the audience away.

“It was a knock-out performance,” said Duke Performances Director Aaron Greenwald. “We present artists at all stages of their career from visionary upstarts to groundbreaking elders. With Porter we were able to show an artist at the absolute peak of his powers.” 

Singing is also just one aspect of Porter’s music. He brings with him a world-class band that perfectly complements and serves as a foundation for his voice. The tight, focused instrumentations nicely reflect the vibe that Porter is giving off. It is also not uncommon for a trumpet or saxophone player to launch into a frenetic, soulful solo.

After listening to Gregory Porter’s music, it is not surprising why Duke Performances would ask him to headline a concert two years in a row. Some describe his voice live as having a warmth that just cannot translate across a recording, bringing an older style of music into the present.

“Authenticity and talent are timeless,” Greenwald said. “Because [Porter] does have such a fine handle on the past… he’s an ideal artist for Duke students who may still be fledgling listeners to begin digging into the incalculable gift that is black American music.”

Throughout one album Porter easily transitions between sweet, melancholy ballads and impassioned, sometimes even angry, more energetic numbers. For some, his acoustic, stripped-down approach begets a genuine character that can be difficult to find in more modern musical styles. On Thursday night concertgoers will find an intense, cathartically uplifting performance.

“Two words: 'Liquid Spirit,' said senior Abhi Shah. "I am sad I missed him last year. I won't make the same mistake twice. Gregory Porter is a straight baller.”

Porter's concert is one of two that will be filling the newly renovated Page Auditorium. The other concert will be a performance from singer Rhiannon Giddens held Friday. Renovations on Page Auditorium totaled $8 million and included improving the acoustical quality of the space and the antiquated lighting system was replaced with a more modern one. Additionally, new seats have been installed and the audience seating has been staggered to allow for easier view of the performances taking place on stage. With these renovations the audience will be able to experience the full depth of Porter’s voice.

For Duke students, this concert presents an excellent opportunity to experience a world-renowned artist at his creative peak. For vocal jazz lovers especially, this concert will not be one to miss. Porter’s smooth, sensual delivery combined with the thoughtful detail throughout his recorded work suggests that he will make Thursday night special. Along with other musicians such as Kamasi Washington, he represents a generation of artists who are bringing jazz and soul music back into the mainstream. Coming off a Grammy award and international tours, Porter shows no signs of letting up.


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