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.

Jon Garelick can be reached at jon.garelick@globe.com.