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Released, purely coincidentally but quite serendipitously, during a crazy and fearful moment in modern history, Gregory Porter’s All Rise takes soul and jazz to church in energizing, uplifting ways.
Buoyed by the London Symphony Orchestra Strings — a lush through-line from his last release, the tribute album Nat King Cole & Me — a fiery handpicked horn section and a rousing 10-member choir, the powerful baritone vocalist takes flight, symbolically and literally embracing his place in the cosmos while 60,000 feet in the air on “Concorde,” then soaring over the hypnotic handclaps, sizzling brass, low-toned “mmm-hmmm” vocals and choral shouts of “Revival.”
Unlike typical gospel albums, Porter appeals to secular listeners as well as religious ones, brilliantly evoking Jesus’ name while hoping to build trust in a romantic partner on the mellow, then jazzy and rambunctious “Faith in Love.” Recognizing that the redemption that love and faith can provide sometimes only comes from enduring life’s trials, Porter throws down some ominous, rootsy funk blues on “Long List of Troubles,” finding solace in the realization that disappointment can be transcended with “a spare set of wings … watch me fly!”
The singer also taps into the socially conscious part of his artistry with a deceptively easy-flowing, low-key jab at child-slavers on “Merchants of Paradise,” and on the eye-and-ear opening “Mr. Holland,” an insightful horn- and organ-fired narrative thanking the white father of his girlfriend for overlooking the color of his skin and promising no trouble. The album title is a self-fulfilling prophecy. — Jonathan Widran
Featured photo by Ami Sioux.