Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival: Curacao, August 31-September 1, 2012
It would be remiss to mention that the festival also had some individual concerts during the week to raise the buzz for the festival. Most important was a performance by singer Gregory Porter at the Brakkeput Mei Mei restaurant, where they also have a very nice concert venue.
Porter's standing as a jazz singer is rightfully rising. He turned in a fantastic performance in Curacao, with his outstanding band. Porter had a lot of soul in his delivery, but swung like mad, with great time and feeling, like on "Black Nile." He also sang a ballad like "Skylark" with convincing passion and uplifting reverence, his baritone voice ringing true with each phrase. He was a dynamic performer who grabbed the attention and held it.
"Be Good"also the title to his latest album on Motéma Recordswas a masterpiece of good musical taste. The melody and its appealing changes were stirring. The lyric was a delightful difference from what is usually heard in a waltz ballad. Add the charm of his voice and the result is something special. On the opposite end of that, but equally special, was "1960 What?" This was a very intense, driving account of racial unrest in Detroit (that could be easily applied to other cities) in the 1960s. It was spellbinding, as he sang with spirit and intensity. It is probably the best song of this type since Billie Holiday sang "Strange Fruit"and not all of the lyrics were something that remained behind in the 1960s, unfortunately).
Porter also had a fine touring band. Saxophonist Yosuke Sato was a real burner and his solos complimented the nature of each song. Bassist Aaron James may go unnoticed in a singer's band, but he had a great deep tone and fleet fingers that were remarkable. That's a name we could be hearing a lot more of in the future.
The North Sea Jazz people have forged a fine event in the land far away from their home base. It made for a delectable weekend.