For the last two years I have spent the opening night of the London Jazz Festival at the Jazz Voices concert at the Barbican. It’s a production the like of which you won’t see anywhere else all year. The concept brings together several vocalists who are backed by a big band arranged by the superb Guy Barker.  Previous singers have included Kurt Eling, Jamie Cullum and Melody Gardot. So far, every year’s concert has been stunning and this year was no different, perhaps even the best so far.

Ian Shaw, Ayanna Witter Johnson, Lucinda Bell, Michelle Dockery, Mary Pearce, Norma Winston, Shingai Shoniwa and Gregory Porter each took turns to be whisked away by a 42 piece jazz orchestra featuring strings and horns, yes that’s 42 world class musicians!  They produced a musical landscape that had a power, richness and depth that defies description. Such a thing can only be appreciated live. When you see a big production like this it makes you understand what a spectacle Duke Ellington’s or Count Basie’s orchestras must have been. It’s magical. All the singers were superb and some of my highlights came from the grammy nominated Gregory Porter whose presence lit up the whole hall. So I was thrilled to meet up with him a few days later to do an interview for my book research.

We chatted for over hour and half during which Gregory described how he places notes in a spatial arrange as part of his mental model. He even illustrated some points by singing. Sitting next to Gregory as he knocked out a couple of bars of improvised blues was fantastic. If you are a fan of vocalists like Nat King Cole, you’ll dig Mr Porter. He has his own sound and pens his own compositions. Below is a video of one of his songs which also has been remixed by 3 DJ’s.  A new album is scheduled for early 2012 and his current album, the grammy nominated ‘Water’, is out now.If you get a chance to see him my advice is don’t pass it up.