Gregory Porter: Water

Motema Music

Warmth coats every line of Gregory Porter's intimate jazz and soul debut. Hints of Nat King Cole bleed through Porter's articulate phrasing, but the weight of Joe Williams and the spiritualism of Bill Withers resonates, too. When Porter, an emotional, big-voiced stylist, sings of loneliness on "Lonely One," there is a knowing and compassion. The standards are here: an accusatory "Skylark," an awed "But Beautiful," a propulsive "Black Nile," and a field song of "Feeling" ("Feeling Good"), are well-chosen. But the exception is to a mostly self-penned introduction, sparingly produced by Kamau Kenyatta. Porter's own compositions of love and protest, such as "Wisdom," are as theatrical as his post-Tin Pan Alley material, revealing his Broadway pedigree. Supporting musicians match Porter's respect for space and melodrama with as much skill and passion as their frontman. Porter's conviction and traditionalism cuts a retro figure, but also delivers another refreshing, contemporary male jazz voice worth savoring. (4 out of 5 stars)