Jazz, soul, and gospel singer, songwriter, and actor Gregory Porter was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Bakersfield, California, where his mother was a minister. As a child, he fell under the spell of his mother's Nat King Cole records, learning to imitate Cole, but his early aspirations were in sports. He was awarded a football scholarship to attend San Diego State University, but after an injury to his shoulder derailed his sports career, he began performing in local jazz clubs, where he met saxophonist, composer, and pianist Kamau Kenyatta. Kenyatta became Porter's mentor, introducing him to flutist Hubert Laws, who featured Porter's vocals on a track on his 1998 album, Hubert Laws Remembers the Unforgettable Nat "King" Cole. Laws' sister, Eloise Laws, heard Porter during the studio sessions and was impressed with his singing; she helped him get cast as one of the leads in a new musical, It Ain't Nothing But the Blues, which eventually enjoyed a run on Broadway.
The gates were open for Porter. His debut album, Water, appeared in 2010, and was followed by a second, Be Good, released two years later in 2012. In September of 2013, Porter (accompanied by Airto) appeared on a track from Kentiyah Presents Evolutionary Minded: Furthering the Legacy of Gil Scott-Heron, with M-1, Brian Jackson, Chuck D, Killah Priest, Martin Luther, and others; a week later, he issued his third album, Liquid Spirit, produced by Brian Bacchus and released by the Blue Note label. The album was a huge success, scooping up the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Jazz Vocal Album and becoming the most streamed jazz album of all time, with over 20 million streams. His second effort for Blue Note, Take Me to the Alley, was released in early 2016, and featured Porter's own version of "Holding On," a track he co-wrote and previously recorded with electronic act Disclosure. Also in 2016, Porter delivered the concert album Live in Berlin. ~ Steve Leggett