Art Porter

For Art's Sake

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Anytime a beloved young artist dies tragically, record companies scramble for leftovers that fans can treasure as a keepsake of a life and career cut short. Porter' s followers will love this tribute because it features a handful of previously unreleased recordings of the saxman in the live arena, where the tight studio-controlled funk of his four recordings was let loose into an improvisational setting. Anyone acquainted with Porter only through the easygoing soprano tracks played on smooth jazz radio will realize from these tracks -- recorded at the 1996 North Sea Jazz Festival, not long before his drowning death in Thailand -- that while the horn master chose a career in pop, he was also an exceptional, inventive jazz performer. A little editing on the boisterous 23-minute take of "Lay Your Hands on Me" -- which has ten solid minutes of jamming but wears out its welcome not long after -- would have been a good idea, however. Maybe there weren't enough good live tracks to flesh out a full disc, so the label gives fans a hodgepodge of studio outtakes -- some essential (the blues-funk groover "Little Rock" with Porter mentor Jeff Lorber, and a nice Christmas ditty with Tom Grant) and some not (remixes of "Pocket City" and "Straight to the Point" which don't add much to the originals). The most curious track is a tribute called "Mr. Porter," which finds Lorber and Gerald Albright trying to simulate the funky Porter experience. This would have been best saved for a later all-star tribute to the late musician. Here, however, up against the real deal, it only intensifies the loss of one of the genre's most promising voices.

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