Gregory Porter strolls into the lobby of the Monterey Hyatt on a picture-perfect Friday afternoon in September, and the pre-festival buzz suffusing the room seems to ascend to a higher pitch. With the release of his third album, Liquid Spirit, three days prior, he’s added another few gallons of rocket fuel to his career’s torrid upward trajectory, a ride powered by his Grammy-nominated debut from 2011, Water, and his equally heralded follow-up, 2012’s Be Good (both on Motéma). With Liquid Spirit, his first for Blue Note, he seems poised for the same kind of crossover leap taken by his labelmate Robert Glasper. But in place of Glasper’s hip-hop grooves and new-school-R&B beats, Porter draws on gospel, soul and the politically conscious R&B that made the early 1970s such a fervently creative era.
A big man with a big, earnest sound, he’s getting his message out and building a reputation for incendiary performances. After tearing up one of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s smaller rooms last year, he got invited back to the big stage. Porter, 42, sat down for this Before & After in the Hyatt a couple of hours before his soundcheck.