Gregory Porter’s popularity as a singer/songwriter sets him apart within genres and categories – as of press time, Take Me To The Alley (Blue Note) is the first jazz record in the UK in 10 years to break into the top five album list, placing just behind Drake. It’s easy to become infatuated with his booming baritone voice, sweet soul jazz crooning and musical grooves. Porter has the same ability as Bill Withers to charm and comfort you, and get you to sing along. Alley is the follow-up to his Grammy-winning Liquid Spirit, a gorgeously crafted jazz album with pop leanings, and on it Porter strikes that unique balance again, leading with a stripped down yet more heartfelt version of “Holding On,” a tune first released as a DJ remix by electronica group, Disclosure. The songs have a stylistic malleability that easily crossover, whether as glorious ballads (“Consequence of Love”) or bluesy showstoppers like “Don’t Lose Your Steam.” Working again with producer Kamau Kenyatta and his terrific band – pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott, among them — Porter’s musical stories, particularly the blissfully percussive “In Heaven, “ which features a divine solo by trumpeter Keyon Harrold, is catchy enough to be your ear worm, but the tunes that ground the album and make it truly soar are the stirring title track, a smooth, silky “Insanity” and the lushly romantic “Don’t Be A Fool,” each of which illustrate Porter’s skill to mix  poignancy with inspiration. That other voice you hear paired with Porter on these tracks is the angelic singer, Alicia Olatuja, a standout talent in her own right. (14 tracks; 60 minutes)

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