You might ask, “Who the heck is singer/songwriter Will Porter”? And how did he get Barbara Lewis (Baby I’m Yours), Bunchy Johnson (Aaron Neville), Mic Gillette (Tower of Power Horns), Leo Nocentelli (The Meters), Billy Preston (no introductions necessary), and Wardell Quezergue, (whom many consider The Architect of New Orleans Sound), “The Creole Beethoven,” to produce and do all the arrangements—rhythm, horn and strings, (The Louisiana Philharmonic Strings) for this very strong debut recording for Porter.
About Will Porter: Originally from West Virginia, now San Francisco-based. Music director or band leader for Mary Wells, The Shirelles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Little Anthony, Chuck Berry, Sam Moore, Percy Sledge, Del Shannon, and Mitch Ryder. Years of club and concert work, including two appearances as a headliner at The San Francisco Blues Fest. Porter met Wardell and Bunchy when he and Billy Preston went to Mississippi and Louisiana for a series of shows. The house band was Wardell’s. These shows started the talks and Wardell’s well-known pre-recording process for the New Orleans recording of Will’s first ever CD “Happy”.
Quezergue on Will Porter: “He sounds like Will Porter, which is a good quality to have. He has a lot of material, and I hope to continue working with him. I've had big Soul hits, and Pop hits. This CD is Soul and Pop!!”
The CD gets started on a upbeat groove with Will’s “I Thought You Were the Right One”, with its thumping bass line by Wardell’s son Brian, Nocentelli’s fuzzed out scorching guitar, Preston’s B3, and with Wardell’s incredibly intellectual horn charts. It serves as a perfect backdrop for Porter’s smooth and, at the same time, raspy vocals. During the long fade you can also hear Barbara Lewis join in as well— really sweet! There are two versions of “Don’t Pass Me By,” a radio edit, and the final track on the CD (the complete version), which shows off Will’s heartfelt vocals aided by Wardell’s strings and horns. Perhaps Will’s old boss and band mate Percy Sledge says it best, "When I heard "Don't Pass Me By" I got goose-bumps!" Who can argue with Percy?
The Jesse Fuller classic “San Francisco Bay” is next, with more punchy-funky horns and sweet vocals making this track an utter delight! Howard Arlen’s “Easy Street” has that lounge feel but is given a superb lush treatment with Wardell’s strings and horns. You will love the way Will delivers on this classic chestnut, especially when he comments “sit and play the horses”. Additionally, the Thaddeus Richard sax solo is so silky smooth! Porter’s “Sweet Maybe” definitely has that New Orleans funky back beat that made Wardell, and now perhaps Will Porter , famous.
“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down (And Write Myself a Letter) at first seems like an unusual choice, but it is treated in a second line parade-style way. Porter mentions: “That track is NOT Dixieland! –and could be the only parade song with strings.” It works for me. Will’s vocals are right on and Mic Gillette (trombone) and Johnnie Bamont (tenor) take near perfect solos. Now, it’s Blues-time, with Porter’s “Like a Circle (Around the Sun)”. Billy Preston’s B3 provides the grease and co-mingles beautifully with Thaddeus Richard (this time on piano). Nocentelli tastefully soars on guitar, and once again those exquisite horns and strings by Wardell are perfectly executed for Will to take you back down home. “Adios,” the sixth Porter original, is just plain gorgeous. From a radio DJ’s perspective this tune would segue well with Van Morrison’s “Tupelo Honey”, only with a Spanish twist. Check out Wardell’s at times classical-sounding string charts, making this the prettiest song on this very impressive CD.
There you have it. There is something musically for everyone here, all executed to near perfection. Furthermore: as special and unique as this recording is, the more you listen to it, the more it will grow on you!
Buy this CD! And give it time to simmer in your CD tray and treat yourself to all the ear candy provided, as you will not be disappointed. There are not enough CDs made today where so much care and detail have been taken during the recording process. This one delivers on all fronts! Will Porter may have waited a long time to arrive, but here he is…! Enjoy!
This CD appears headed for a major-label release, maybe re-titled, but the remaining independent copies seem readily available at cdbaby.com, Amazon.com, Tower and various internet sources.
President NY Blues & Jazz, and radio
host @ WFDU’s, “Sounds of Blue”