This week’s Artists in Focus blog features one of the world’s most successful jazz giants, Gregory Porter!

Sing, Baby, Sing!

California born Gregory Porter, one of eight siblings, was frequently encouraged by his mother to sing in church. When she died when Porter was only 21 years old, some of her last words to him were, “sing, baby, sing!”.

And sing he did! After a short stint as a chef in New York (and a brief attempt at a football career, which was quickly thwarted by a shoulder injury!) the city quickly discovered his talent. He sang in various bars and clubs, and found himself with a weekly residency at Harlem club, St. Nick’s Pub. It wasn’t long until Blue Note Records discovered Gregory Porter, and not much longer until the awards started rolling in.

Exceeding Expectations

That’s right, Porter’s third album, Liquid Spirit, released in 2013, won the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album. This album did unusually well for a jazz album, exceeding expectations in the UK jazz scene. It reached the top ten on the UK Albums chart, peaking in the ninth position – a huge success! His next album, Take Me to the Alley, also achieved this prestigious Grammy award.

A few of his notable UK performances include an appearance on the one and only Pyramid Stage at the 2016 Glastonbury festival, as well as an emotional part in the VE Day 70: A Party to Remember, a concert to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe day which was televised in 2015. Porter sang “As Time Goes By”, a jazz song written in 1931 but made famous in the 1942 film Casablanca.

Porter always does his public appearances wearing a hat with fabric that covers his ears and chin. He originally wore this hat due to some surgery he had on his skin, but it quickly became a look he was widely recognised for!

The Rockschool Vocals Grade 7 syllabus contains one of our favourite Porter bangers, “Hey Laura”. Not only was this tune featured on that Grammy Award winning album, Liquid Spirit, but it also received a nomination in its own right for Best Traditional R&B Performance. If you’re wanting a song in your repertoire that highlights your lower register then look no further than “Hey Laura”. We all know and love Porter’s naturally deep voice, and this is your chance to get across that same detail and clarity in your own performance. We can’t wait to hear you all have a go at this incredibly rich and meaningful piece in the exam room!

We’ve loved digging a bit deeper into the life of Gregory Porter! He’s joined on the Rockschool Vocals syllabus by some more incredible artists, some of which we’ve featured on the Artists in Focus blog in months gone past, including Chaka Khan, Marvin Gaye and Ariana Grande.