Eight Little Feet
This CD does not capture the peaks of intensity and lyricism that Porter has reached in live performance over the past couple of years, but it comes close enough to show why listeners and musicians across the country are talking about the Portland pianist. With the support and collaboration of bassist Bob Magnusson and drummer Joe LaBarbera, Porter plays 10 of his compositions, a piece by John Coltrane and one standard. His arrangement of "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?" assigns the drummer a parade beat and the bassist a sousaphone vamp in the A sections. LaBarbera and Magnusson bring them off as if they had been seasoned in Crescent City brass bands. The contrast between the marching-band funk and the substance of Porter's modern voicings, hip phrasing and stop-time comping sets up a pattern of tension and release that makes the track one of the most stimulating in the album.
Porter's imaginative harmonies and the sensitivity of his touch define the slow waltz "Eight Little Feet," which is dedicated to his children. The piece has one of several superb Magnusson solos in the collection. "Groove Thing" is an E-flat blues built around a series of riffs. Its essential quality in the blowing choruses is hard swing. "Jig With a Pig," like "A Little Kindness" and many of Porter's other compositions, works from a nostalgic core while exploring audacious rhythmic and harmonic concepts. It highlights the fleetness of his right hand and features LaBarbera in a typically melodic solo. "Giant Stretch" bends Coltrane's "Giant Steps" harmonies, works its way into and out of "I Got Rhythm" changes and sets up the next piece, "Be Still," with a phrase in the introduction that echoes "Giant Steps." That thoughtful transition is a small example of the craft of an increasingly interesting musician.