This giant of a man, both in stature and talent, has already claimed Britain’s newest jazz festival, Love Supreme, as his own and has risen from playing for free in New York bars to touring the world’s finest concert halls including our own Brighton Dome, retaining the same quartet throughout.
Beginning with the mid-tempo beauty ‘Painted On Canvas’, the band were given space to solo and after a spot of Brighton banter came ‘On My Way To Harlem’, also from his second album, that felt like a breezy yellow cab ride around 125th Street. Names were checked while the sax soared and as Chip Crawford’s piano solo tapered off Porter came swooping in to finish with all his gospel soul roots blazing.
Drummer Emanuel Harrold’s delicate brush strokes allowed the purity of Porter’s voice to shine on the heart-melting ‘No Love Dying’, followed by Aaron James’s funky bass line on ‘Musical Genocide’, delivered in the style of the Max Roach/Gary Bartz black consciousness classics. A snappy, hand-clappy ‘Liquid Spirit’ was bookended by two gorgeous ballads that enthralled the crowd, after which a short spiritual was delivered off mic – a testament to his vocal prowess.
The oft-covered ‘Work Song’ is a gift for Porter and was given a new lease of life, with the band letting loose and Yosuke Sato delivering a dazzling circular breathing sax solo. A playful piano intro to ‘Wolfcry’ gave way to the leader’s painfully beautiful velvet vibrato on a duet that rightfully silenced the room.
‘1960 What?’, the song that started it all for this most endearing, modest man stands as a great civil rights anthem and deservedly received a standing ovation to close the show. Returning for a single encore, instead of a showstopper like ‘The In Crowd’, we were treated to the sublime ‘Be Good (Lion’s Song)’. This gentle waltz with it’s unusual lyric was a perfect end to an evening in the company of a man at the top of his game.
Brighton Dome Concert Hall, Weds 12th November 2014
Words by Steve Clements