The Jazz Singer
When Gregory Porter makes his debut Friday at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, he’ll be doing so as a first-time Grammy winner.
Following two earlier nominations that didn’t yield an award, the Brooklyn-based jazz singer’s “Liquid Spirit” won a Grammy in January for best vocal jazz album.
Before the win, Porter prepared himself to once again not receive music’s biggest prize.
“I was cool with being nominated, not that I doubted myself or the possibility of winning,” Porter said from Colorado during a few days off from his world-spanning tours.
When his name was announced, Porter stepped into a whole new Grammy Awards experience.
“They scoop you up and take you backstage,” he said. “And you go through these interviews and photographic experiences. And the people you see back there, they’re some of the greats in music.”
With Grammy prestige at his back, Porter will see a long-held goal met when he sings at Jazz Fest this weekend.
“I’ve been dreaming about that festival for a long time,” he said. “Friends of mine were playing it like, wow, 20 years ago. I was like, ‘Wow, it’d be a cool measure of success to do that festival.’ I’ve been saying that about a lot of the festivals. Monterey, Newport, Montreux, North Sea. The New Orleans festival is right up there with those crown jewels.”
“Liquid Spirit” is the singer’s debut album for the legendary jazz label, Blue Note. Don Was — the president of Blue Note since 2012 and the producer of recordings by Bonnie Raitt, Bob Dylan, Aaron Neville, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson and dozens more — is a Porter fan.
“For Blue Note to come to me and say, ‘Continue to be yourself. Do what you do and we’ll be glad to make you a part of the Blue Note family,’ that gave me confidence in myself,” Porter said.
His career was already trending upward, but still Porter believes joining Blue Note gave him a significant energy boost.
“I’d done two records that got strong appreciation from critics,” he said. “Maybe the Grammy win would have happened without Blue Note, but I got more Facebook posts about signing to Blue Note than I did for the Grammy nominations. It’s kept the movement going.”
Porter’s 2014 touring includes Europe, the U.K., Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and many U.S. dates.
“I have been hopping all over the world,” he said. “If you saw my flight bill you’d be like, ‘Wow.’ But it’s been great to share this music all around the world.”
Traveling is good for Porter’s songwriting muse.
“I write while I’m moving,” he said. “The rhythms and melodies come to me when I’m on the train or in the plane.”
Audiences throughout the world, despite their various languages and cultures, respond warmly to Porter’s music.
“A simple song like ‘Real Good Hands’ resonates in Germany the same way it does in Atlanta,” he said. “Even if music doesn’t bring people together physically, you can see the emotional togetherness. Music is real. We can dismiss it and trivialize it, but it’s a powerful force and source.”