Gregory Porter coming to Forum Karlín

The jazz singer just released a tribute album to Nat King Cole

Jazz singer Gregory Porter will be in Prague April 23, 2018, at Forum Karlín to support his new album. It will be his only stop in the Czech Republic.

He has just released Nat King Cole & Me on the Blue Note label. It's a tribute to his idol: singer, pianist, and songwriter Nat King Cole.

The new album includes covers of “Mona Lisa” and “Smile”, as well as other hits, made popular by Cole, who died in 1965 at age 45, leaving behind a large musical legacy.

UK newspaper The Guardian in its review of Nat King Cole & Me praised the renditions of “Ballerina,” “L-O-V-E” and “I Wonder Who My Daddy Is.” The latter was originally sung by Freddie Cole, Nat's brother.

Radio station NPR called Poter's new record a “glittery album” with “splendiferous arrangements.”

Nat King Cole & Me is Porter’s third album for Blue Note, following up on his Grammy-winning albums Liquid Spirit (2013) and Take Me to the Alley (2016).

Porter's new album was made with the help of six-time Grammy-winning arranger Vince Mendoza and a band featuring pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens. The London Studio Orchestra appears on some arrangements. There is no word yet on who will accompany Porter on the European tour.

“It’s only natural that I go to the root of my inspiration and where I come from. And that root would be my mother and gospel music and Nat King Cole,” Porter said on the Blue Note website.

The new tour will heavily feature songs from the new album. Cole's influence on the life and work of Porter can be traced back to his childhood. “He was one of a kind. He left such great music – such beautiful things to listen to that you can’t help but be influenced by that extraordinary timbre, style, and ultimate cool,” Porter said.

“My mother said I wrote this little song when I was 5 and put it on a tape and played it for her when she came home from work,” Porter said. His mother, Ruth Porter, said, “Boy, you sound like Nat King Cole.” That compliment that sent Gregory into her record collection to learn more.

“I remember thinking how strange that name was, going through her records, and first seeing his image: this elegant, handsome, strong man sitting by a fire, looking like somebody's daddy. Then I put the vinyl on the player and out of those speakers came to that voice, that nurturing sound. It filled a void in me. My father wasn’t in my life; he wasn’t raising me; he wasn’t showing any interest in me. So Nat’s words, ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again’ – all of these life lessons and words of wisdom were like fatherly advice. They were coming out of the speakers like Nat was singing those words just to me. I would listen to his albums and imagine that Nat was my father,” he said.

There is a lot of Nat King Cole music to choose from. “I went about selecting the songs like I always do – first in a very emotional way,” Porter said. “I just gathered the songs that meant something to me over the years.

Porter originally was going to play football but turned to music after an injury sidelined that career. The return to music put him back in touch with his roots. “There was a period in college when I had an injury to my shoulder and I needed music to soothe me at that time. So I ended up going back to Nat’s records. Then I did the same thing during the passing of my mother. In a way, there’s a familiarity and a calming effect to Nat’s music. Recording Nat’s music was very personal because I could hear and feel my mother. And I still feel myself searching for my father.”

Porter has also appeared in the Czech Republic several times including in 2013 at the Strings of Autumn festival in Prague and at Jazzfest Brno in 2016.

Porter has a Czech connection as well. Czech keyboardist Ondřej Pivec played on Porter's previous album.

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