Gregory Porter

Nat “King” Cole & Me

Blue Note

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Review by Keith Bruce

AS everyone who has seen Alfred George Bailey’s fine biographical documentary Don’t Forget Your Music (screened at Glasgow Jazz Festival) already knows, a Fringe stage show he wrote about Nat “King” Cole was a significant step on Gregory Porter’s journey to being the most popular male jazz singer of the moment. There are, regrettably given the years that have passed, more than personal parallels between the journey Porter is making and the one Cole achieved back then and if this album broadens Porter’s audience for the next step he makes in his career that will be a fine result on its own.

In the context of his own recordings, however, it looks a little like a step from the path. He sings the Cole canon superbly of course, but no-one could say that the opening track, Mona Lisa, surpasses Aaron Neville’s 1981 reading of the song. Truth to tell, and no disrespect to the man whose name is on the label, the arrangements and production of Vince Mendoza – and the playing of a London studio ensemble – are what really lift this 12-song collection. That said, the concluding version of Mel Torme’s Christmas Song should certainly be this Yuletide’s chart-topper, but it seems likely that the more recently deceased have that slot ring-fenced.