For Art's Sake
is sort of a grab-bag compilation of live performances, remixes and other miscellaneous selections featuring the late saxophonist Art Porter. Porter drowned in 1996, cutting short a promising career; indeed, these performances illustrate that Porter was a talented, accomplished player who was still in the process of developing his own voice, both in terms of sax playing and musical style. This mostly garden-variety contemporary jazz-flavored R&B.
The live cuts come off the best. The opener, "Lake Shore Drive" (familiar to smooth jazz radio listeners) and "Texas Hump" are particular standouts. As with many live performances, they are buoyed by the energy of playing before an enthusiastic crowd and the interaction among the musicians. But they are hampered by occasional over-playing, and some solos are drawn out way too long; they may remain interesting to those in attendance who have the additional stimulus of watching the musicians, but they become tiring for those of us listening at home.
Some of the studio cuts tend more towards urban hip-hop; Porter tries his best to inject energetic playing into the tunes, but they are ultimately sunk by the repetitive sampled vocal snippets and banal "sweet nothings" background vocals. The CD closes with "The Christmas Song," rendered as a duet with pianist Tom Grant. While pleasant, it adds nothing new to the thousands of times this song has been done before, and it seems oddly out of place with the rest of the CD.
One of Porter's previous studio CDs might serve as a better introduction to his music. But for those who are already Art Porter fans, this CD is a worthwhile addition to their discography, and it probably adds a dimension of closure to Porter's career.