Gregory Porter

During the Blue Note at Sea cruise in late January, Don Was, famed record producer and president of Blue Note Records, sat down with one of the artists on his label, the Grammy-winning vocalist Gregory Porter, for a listening session in front of a live audience. Was played only vocalists with whom he felt Porter had some affinity or direct connection. Not surprisingly, Porter recognized every artist without being told and was impassioned in explaining their importance in his life. Porter’s latest album, All Rise, is due out August 28 on Blue Note. —JazzTimes

1. Marvin Gaye

“You’re All I Need to Get By/Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” (Live at the London Palladium, Tamla). Gaye and Florence Lyles, vocals; Nolan Smith, trumpet; Fernando Harkness, saxophones and flute; Charles Bynum and Terry Evans, guitars; Michael Stanton, electric piano; Odell Brown, synthesizer and organ; Gerald “Get Down” Brown, bass; Melvin Webb, congas; Elmira Amos and Frankie Beverly, percussion; Bugsy Wilcox, drums; Bobby Gant, Gwanda Hambrick, and Wally Cox, backing vocals; band directed by Leslie Drayton. Recorded in 1977.

BEFORE: Well, maybe [sarcastically] that’s Marvin Gaye. [Laughs] I’ve always said you could put Marvin in a whole bunch of categories. Obviously knowing his story and even hearing his voice, you can tell that there was some gospel-rearing, but I mean that’s R&B and soul. But on top of that, his phrasing and the guitar and the bass, it’s jazz, and the keyboards—it’s jazz.

I was in my college apartment, sitting on a mattress because I didn’t have money for a whole bed. I had already injured my shoulder [an injury that ended Porter’s plan to be a football player], and I was trying to figure out where I was going to go. I had thought maybe, aside from my studies, music could be an avenue for me, but I didn’t think I was cool enough for R&B. At the time, there were groups like Color

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