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Monday, May 01, 2017

Take Me to the Alley

The Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal went to Gregory Porter, for his album Take Me to the Alley. Now, I'm not what you call a jazz enthusiast, and the songs on this album, all written by Porter, don't sound jazzy as much as they do American songbook. His voice, a rich baritone, is very easy on the ears, and the reaction while listening is one of comfort.

Most of the songs are about love, or the lack thereof. I was most impressed with the songwriting and singing on "In Fashion," in which Porter uses a metaphor for being dumped:

"I'm last year's runway passion
No longer in fashion
But I find myself obsessed
With how you dress
And who you're with when you're without me."

Porter hits a lovely high note on "without me" that will break your heart.

He also manages to find new ways to exalt a woman in "More Than a Woman":

"She never walked on water
She never turned that water into wine
But being 'round her made my blind eyes see."

Only a few songs deviate from the pattern. "French African Queen" is an up tempo number about an American blues man who runs across the title character in Paris. "Don't Lose the Steam" is a song of encouragement to a young man. The title song concerns a ruler who is less interested in the trappings of power and wealth than in the poor:

"Take me to the alley
Take me to the afflicted ones
That me to the lonely ones
That somehow lost their way."

Porter, a former football player, is a large teddy-bear of a man, and his voice can veer from fierce to feather-soft in just a few notes. I would have never heard of him if it weren't for the Grammy, so I guess they are good for something--he sold at least one extra CD.

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