For a second time, the Grammy-awarded Gregory Porter is the headline of Jazzkaar Festival in Tallinn. The concert filled up the whole Nordea Concert Hall on 23rd of April, from the stall to the balcony, with a fervent audience willing to take part of the spectacle.
This singer came on stage with the same core musicians that accompanied him on his previous two albums: pianist Chip Crawford, saxophonist and flutist Yosuke Sato, bass player Aaron James and drummer Emanuel Harrold. It’s comprehensible that he wants to retain those magnificent musicians as they were an important part of the performance as well.
Chip Crawford was a vibrant part of the band; he backed up the voice of Gregory Porter all the time. He gave a passionate piano solo, where his jagged lines were equal to the anguished contortions of his face. On the other side of the stage, the sounds and solos from the both sax and flute brightened the space. With the excellent ups and downs in the scales, growling, glissando and getting perfect overtones, it’s how the Japanese Yosuke Sato conquered the audience’s hearts. Aaron James’ performance was delightful. He plucked and fretted with extreme accuracy on the double bass, tapping and slapping the strings while also dancing with it. By his side, the drummer Emanuel Harrold made sure that everybody’s heart beat to the sound of his rhythms.
Starting, as usual, with the song Painted on Canvas, Porter’s catchy melodies came into the crowd in a flash. He trusted the audience to come along with him while performing No Love Dying by adding “No worries, you know when”. The audience were murmuring in such a nice choral way, not to eclipse his voice. He was able to keep Estonians clapping their hands, conducting the changes of rhythm during Liquid Spirit. The next tune was recognized after only few seconds of playing, as were several others.
The audience wanted Porter to know that there was a reason for the full house many days before the show itself: they love his music. There are no doubts that the baritone could feel that, he handed over the public. The passion for the music was flowing both ways in a special feedback, a powerful connection through his dazzling music. Remarkable also the fact that whistles and shouts were heard at any time, especially after the solos by all musicians on stage.
The set list consisted of songs from all Porters’ albums. The listeners demonstrated that it didn’t matter how old or new the songs were – everything was accepted and loved. He granted the audience with an unreleased voice and piano ballad in an intimate atmosphere. Straightaway, he went to his roots and sang far from the microphone a capella, the instruments got quiet like if there was a big silence in the pentagram to let him stand out. Drums started to beat like tambourines between cotton fields to develop in a more complex rhythm full of soul. The ending was breath-taking. Porter’s diaphragm was pumping out air from the lungs, in a perfect tuned final shout of more than thirty seconds.
The wild ambience turned into a sensual one with his own version of On The Road Jack. He also performed some scat during that song, showing that his voice has very few limits.
The most compelling evidence that people enjoyed the show was the fact that he had to turn up on the stage four times. After a couple of songs, they started to abandon the set one by one. Gregory Porter was the first one walking and dancing. Yosuke Sato was the second one, giving away his flowers to one girl who was sitting in the first row. Followed by Chip Crawford, the bassist Aaron James was lying his instrument down slowly and only stopped to play it when it was completely on the ground. After some minutes beating the drums, Emanuel Harrold was the last to go. More than two minutes of continuing applause with the same intensity, the acclaimed singer felt that he had to sing more, and he did so. Finally, as the spectators were standing up again, Porter appeared for the fourth time, he said: “This is crazy people, c’mon!” After all, the concert must finish at some point, and with a capella Monalisa it was the end.
This concert was a great combination of Gregory Porter, his band and the Estonian audience coming together in great music.
April 23rd of 2015, Nordea Concert Hall
Chip Crawford – pianist
Emanuel Harrold – drummer
Aaron James – double bass
Yosuke Sato – alto saxophone and flute
Gregory Porter – voice