|Gregory Porter (Photo by John Watson)|
Gregory Porter has been called the new voice of jazz, and his velvet-rich baritone yields no argument. Since arriving on the scene just five years ago, the 42-year-old California-born, New York-based vocalist, songwriter and actor has become the darling of the international jazz scene. This year, he plays Newport followed by a much-anticipated appearance at this year’s TD Toronto Jazz Festival on June 20. His Toronto concert is being hosted by local radio station, JazzFm91, which has been giving Porter ample air-play even before his heady win at this year’s Grammys for best jazz vocal album. A former football scholarship student at San Diego State University, the 6’4” 255-pound singer fell into music after a freshman shoulder injury sidelined his athletic career. The music came naturally enough. The son of a minister, Porter started singing as a child. His influences while growing up included Danny Hathaway and others in his mother’s record collection. Porter eventually created a musical about his relationship to the music of his youth in 2004’s Nat King Cole and Me – A Musical Healing, a theatrical production in which he wrote his own music as well as acted. Since then, he has focused on music full-time, putting out three records: 2010’s Water, 2012’s Be Good and 2013’s Liquid Spirit. He plans to work with orchestras next, Porter said in a recent interview from his Brooklyn home in which he talked about the all-inclusive embrace of jazz and the evolution of the love song. Here’s more of that conversation.