Gregory Porter (vocals) – Live In Berlin, Blu-ray + 2 CDs (2016)

Soul/jazz singer releases a live performance Blu-ray.

Gregory Porter – Live In Berlin, Blu-ray + 2 CDs (2016)

Performers: Gregory Porter – vocals; Chip Crawford – piano; Jahmal Nichols – double bass; Emanuel; Harrold – drums; Tivon Pennicott – tenor saxophone
Producer/Director: Jeremy Aziz
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVB335539
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; PCM Stereo 2.0
Video: 16:9 for 1080i HD, color
TrackList: (Same as CD): Holding On; On My Way To Harlem/What’s Going On; Take Me To The Alley; Don’t Lose Your Steam; Hey Laura; Liquid Spirit; Consequence Of Love; Bass Solo/Papa Was A Rolling Stone; Musical Genocide; Don’t Be A Fool; Work Song?Drum Solo; In Fashion; Be Good (Lion’s Song); 1960 What?; Water Under Bridges; Free/Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)
Length: 128 minutes
Rating: Audio ***1/2      Video ****      Overall ****

Gregory Porter has become a star in the modern soul/jazz genre. His songwriting ability and recordings have garnered critical and fan enthusiasm. His stage persona has made him an international star. Eagle Vision has released a Blu-ray (with 2 CDs), titled Gregory PorterLive In Berlin. Like many artists, their essence can often be understood in a context of performance. Here, Porter offers selections from his studio catalog. Backed by a solid quartet (Chip Crawford/piano; Jahmal Nichols/double bass; Emanuel Harrold/drums and Tivon Pennicott/tenor saxophone), the film is straightforward and concentrates on the music. Director Jeremy Aziz focuses on the stage and the innate chemistry of Porter and his band mates. There is limited interview footage, consisting of pre-song interviews with Porter aboard a train. Opening with “Holding On”, Porter introduces his soulful baritone and is joined by the quartet that slide in back of his vocals. The songs are observations  about growing up, “On My Way To Harlem”, “Take Me to The Alley”, with occasional hooks (What’s Goin’ On”) of influential soul composers.

Porter conjures up several musical genres including funk (“Don’t Lose Your Steam”), swirling balladry (“Hey Laura”), jazz (“Work Song”) and sermon-like gospel (“Liquid Spirit”). The band is deft and able to execute up tempo shifts. The momentum of the concert gets a jolt when Jahmal Nichols shines on “Bass Solo”. His innate ebullience and technique are impressive. The song morph’s into a cover of the Temptations classic hit, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone”. From there , a transition into “Musical Genocide” showcases Porter’s interesting phrasing. Pianist Chip Crawford gets to display his bluesy chops (with a compelling solo) on “Don’t Be A Fool”. The end of the set includes the crowd favorite, “Be Good (Lion’s Song)” which boasts an unusual 3/4 time signature. But the band hits it out of the park on “1960 What”. The finger-snapping political opus highlights the 60’s urban upheaval in raw, emotional tones. The imagery of violence (…”shots ring out…”) and terrific hooks make this track stand out. The two-number encore brings the audience to its feet. The final nod to funk pioneer Sly Stone resonates.

The HD video quality is excellent. the images are crisp and the color levels are subtle. The audio mixes are good, although the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is underwhelming.

—Robbie Gerson

                                                                                                

         

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