Recording of the Week,
Gregory Porter - All Rise
All Rise is the sixth offering from American singer, songwriter and actor Gregory Porter, after recent successes with 2013’s Liquid Spirit and 2016’s Take Me to the Alley, as well as 2017’s Nat King Cole and Me, which saw Porter take on classics by the eminent crooner himself, Cole himself being a huge influence on Porter from a young age. Porter has gained a particularly large following here in the UK, which the singer himself puts down to the Brits’ love of a “soulful voice”, as well as kind words from the likes of the Daily Telegraph and Evening Standard, the latter aptly stating “You could take a bath in that voice”. Like many born showmen, Porter was raised in a household that encouraged his musical leanings, his mother often encouraging him to sing in church. Gaining popularity while performing between working as a chef in Brooklyn, Porter released his first two records before signing to Blue Note in 2013, with his third record Liquid Spirit being his breakout hit. While his latest studio record doesn’t always break new ground for the singer, All Rise sees Porter giving us some of his most joyful and celebratory work yet.
Right from the get-go, Porter is all about affirmation; opening with the explosive and triumphant ‘Concorde’, Porter kicks off the album blasting his hand-picked brass section with his powerful pipes asserting themselves in the life-affirming tune, with these constant lyrical allusions to upwards motion, resurrection and power, as well as the repeating motif ”Rise!” on the track ‘Phoenix’ being perhaps the most overtly positive lyrics Porter has ever penned. Eschewing the comparatively rough production of albums like Take Me to the Alley for more lush arrangements off the back of his success with Nat King Cole and Me, Porter's production value sounds more akin to a modern reimagining of American Songbook recordings with his studio orchestra - particularly the opening strings on ‘If Love Is Overrated’, taking us on a swaying romantic detour, complete with a soprano saxophone solo towards the end.
As much as many moments on All Rise have him positively belting the choruses of songs, Porter still offers us this softer side for ballads. Many of the songs on All Rise - and indeed on past albums - harken back to his roots in gospel, singing in church as a child. Enlisting a ten-member choir for this record, moments like ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Thank You’ would not feel out-of-place in a gospel church. ‘Dad Gone Thing’ and ‘Long List of Troubles’ entertain some bluesy sounds, the former augmented again by the gospel choir, while ‘Faith In Love’ shows hints of 70s funk music with its bassy groove.
While All Rise is hardly a major change for the award-winning singer, there’s a marked increase in energy throughout with songs led by Porter’s more assertive performances, coupled with his brassy orchestration and the aforementioned gospel influences. Returning listeners will likely enjoy the balance between the moody crooning he’s known for, as well as the comparatively ‘modern’ sounds he entertains.