CD Review | Charlie Porter's self-titled release by Tree Palmedo
Charlie Porter - Charlie Porter - (2018)
Had trumpet legend Clifford Brown not passed away, tragically, in 1956, he might have ended up sounding something like Charlie Porter. At times, Porter, who relocated to the Northwest after doing his time in New York City, sounds uncannily similar to Brown, with a burnished, full tone and soulful vibrato. On this debut record, Porter doesn’t shy away from the influence of the trumpet legend, naming a tune “Brown Study” in tribute.
But Porter is more than just a reflection of his influences. He is an incredibly proficient instrumentalist, with a fluid and expressive style that feels like a fresh twist on the hard-bop establishment. And he’s a prolific composer, as is shown by the eclectic collection of swinging jazz originals on the record. “Messenger” is a shuffle in the Art Blakey vein, while “Skain Train” harkens to Django Reinhardt and his ilk (complete with violin solo by Majid Khaliq). “Rondo For Sticky” is a funky number with a catchy bass feature for Jon Lakey, and “New Beginnings” switches nimbly between fast swing and loping waltz, with Porter and his band roaring through it all without hesitation.
Actually, to say “his band” is a bit misleading. Throughout the record, Porter leads an assortment of duos, trios, quartets, and quintets, enlisting an incredible who’s who of Portland jazz to assist him. In no particular order, the record features: saxophonists John Nastos and David Evans; guitarist Chris Woitach; trombonist John Moak; violinist Khaliq; pianists Dan Gaynor, David Goldblatt, Greg Goebel, and George Colligan; bassists Tim Gilson, Cary Miga, Jon Lakey, Chuck Israels, and Bill Athens; drummers Alan Jones, Christopher Brown, Tim Rap, Michael Raynor, and yes, even Mel Brown himself (whew). In fact, the second tune, “Mel Smiles,” is a duet with Portland’s most exalted bop drummer that radiates joy and showcases flawless technique.
Yet even with such an impressive cast, the focal point of Charlie Porter is always Porter’s clear and emphatic trumpet sound. In fact, the record’s most successful moments (on a project full of success) might even be its solo trumpet bookends, a lovely “Prologue” and “Epilogue” that display melodicism throughout the full range of Porter’s chosen instrument.