Thursday, October 28, 2021
Oct. 28, 2021

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Gregory Porter’s new album just what he, fans needed


Gregory Porter didn’t know while he was making it, but his latest album, “All Rise,” is just what his fans needed.

Porter’s sixth album, out in 2020, features the baritone singer on 16 jazz, blues, gospel and soul songs capped by the moving “Revival.”

“I’m not saying I’m a prophet, but I didn’t know we would need this at this moment,” he says. “There were messages there I didn’t even know I’d need. If people tuned into me during a difficult hour, I’m proud of that. I’m glad it’s the record I made in a situation like this.”

“Revival” is about the renewal of the spirit.

“It’s about that idea of looking at yourself, and that self-doubt and insecurity, and surmounting that self-doubt and insecurity,” says Porter.

“The album is quintessential me,” he says of the Grammy-nominated “All Rise,” which displays his respect for Black American music. The album includes a trio of players with whom Porter often works when touring and recording: bassist Jahmal Nichols of St. Louis, drummer Emanuel Harrold and trumpeter Keyon Harrold, both of Ferguson, Mo.

Porter says there hasn’t been a groovin’ song of his that didn’t feature the beat and rhythm of Emanuel Harrold.

“The sound on ‘On My Way to Harlem’ is Emanuel for me,” he says. “I give him the framework, and he takes it and embellishes it and makes it more than I ever imagined.”

Keyon Harrold has played on most of Porter’s albums, he says, and “he’s always there to give me something cool.”

Porter says he connected with Nichols at a Jazz St. Louis show.

When Porter needed a fill-in bassist on his European tour about five years ago, he called Nichols.

“Jahmal came out in a day, learned the music on the flight, stepped in and was excellent,” Porter says. “He was great. It was all about the energy onstage, about his keeping his character as a musician and his own personal musical charisma.”

Porter consulted with Nichols and Emanuel Harrold about what fans would want to hear at Music at the Intersection. He’s making sure to include a cross-section of music going back to early albums “Water” (2010) and “Be Good,” all the way up through “All Rise” — music that demonstrates “who I am,” he says. “For me it was never about selling records, though I’m blessed and thankful for that. But what’s the message you want to leave people? Did I sing and give the expression of who I am in the humanity of my Blackness?”

Porter declined gigs and returned to the stage in his own time. “I don’t want to be the cause of anyone’s sickness,” he says. “I’ve been offered private events and I said, ‘Nahh, I can’t do that.’ It’s gotta be right.”

His brother Lloyd — who had been with him from the beginning of his career, helping with videos and acting as manager — died from COVID-19 early in the pandemic.

“It was an intensely dark time, and I didn’t have the music, the commune with the audience, to help me rise out of the pain,” Porter says.

But it wasn’t all devastation. He and his wife welcomed a new son. (“That doesn’t happen until you stay home,” he jokes.) His podcast, “The Hang,” recorded a second season. On the show, he chats with famous friends such as John Legend, Brittany Howard, Annie Lennox, Elvis Costello, Moby and Robert Glasper. And he debuted “The PorterHouse with Gregory Porter,” an online cooking series shot in his home in Bakersfield, Calif.