Released On: May 11, 2010
Released By: Motema Music
A debut release it may be, Water flows with a sense of timelessness that reflects the seasoned talents of the giants of blues, gospel and soul that have influenced Porter throughout his career. Some of the singers that Porter cites as influential are familiar - Nat King Cole, Joe Williams and Donny Hathaway amongst others - may never realize their impact on his development as an artist. While the work of singers such as Hathaway or Cole obviously helped to shape Porter's vocal styling, his own world view, is evident in his seven original compositions and his striking interpretation of classic songs such as "But Beautiful" and "Skylark," adding an emotional intensity that makes each of the CD's eleven tracks speak so eloquently.
For the recording, Porter tapped a powerful cadre of strong players, among them saxophonist, pianist and composer Kamau Kenyatta who produced the album and the iconic alto sax player James Spaulding who plays a featured role on two tracks: "Wisdom" and "Black Nile."
The intimacy of Porter's play "Nat King Cole and Me," revealed a courageous thespian, who bravely shared his life story with his audience, so it's hardly surprising that many of the songs on Water also come from an emotional place. The CD opens with the ruminative "Illusion," an exquisite duet between Porter and pianist Chip Crawford, which the singer says was inspired by the pain that will accompany every relationship at one time or another. "Pretty," a soulful tribute to a woman from Porter's past, is an understated ensemble piece that is bolstered by the alto sax work of Yoske Sato. "I love coffee," says Porter, "and 'Magic Cup' was written for a beautiful friend who works at my favorite coffee shop." The track percolates with a smooth energy heightened by frenetic sax breaks also courtesy of Sato.
Water's most political song is "1960 What?," inspired in part by Kamau Kenyatta's stories of life in Detroit and by the 1963 assassination of Martin Luther King, as well as by his own experiences growing up in Los Angeles. The mournful "Lonely One" paints a lyrical picture of a tragic love story, while the CD's title track reiterates the artist's use of water as metaphor for redemption, cleansing, history and survival. "Water's" coda is a raw yet soulful Mahalia Jackson-influenced acappella version of the classic "Feeling Good."