Album review: Gregory Porter, ‘Take Me to the Alley’

Whatever his subject matter, the 44-year-old jazz singer-songwriter Gregory Porter has never strayed far from the church of his childhood, and this fourth album as a leader, his second for Blue Note, continues his soul-preacher style — or, as he has called it, “songs of love and protest.” The title cut imagines a kind of secular second coming (“They will be surprised/ when they hear him say/ Take me to the alley/ take me to the afflicted ones”), with consoling vocal harmony by Alicia Olatuja. “Holding On,” which Porter originally recorded with the British electronica outfit Disclosure, here gets a simmering, subdued treatment, accented by the hi-hat’s swish and tick and muted-trumpet obbligato. Among the uptempo numbers, “Don’t Lose Your Steam” is driven by B-3 organ and punchy horns. Again Porter delivers passion and craft in abundance, owing to the songwriting, the acoustic-jazz arrangements (by producer Kamau Kenyatta and pianist Chip Crawford), and his corduroy-warm baritone, pliant and powerful.
Jon Garelick

Essential “Don’t Lose Your Steam”

Gregory Porter performs at the Newport Jazz Festival July 29 and 30.

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