Gregory Porter intended the title of his new album, ALL RISE, to resonate on multiple levels.
“We hear that phrase when presidents or judges come into the room,” he says in a press release for the album, which is due out on Blue Note on April 17, “but I’m thinking all of us rise — not just one person being exalted. We are all exalted and lifted up by love. This is my political thought and my real truth. It comes from my personality, my mother's personality, the personality of the blues, and of black people. It’s this idea of making do with the scraps, of resurrection and ascension, and of whatever the current situation is, it can get better through love.”
That conviction has coursed through Porter’s recording career — from his debut album, Water, released a decade ago, to his most recent, Nat King Cole & Me, from 2017. Naturally it speaks loud and clear on the first single from ALL RISE: a stirring, gospel-infused anthem called “Revival.” A video for the song premiered today.
“Revival” employs a familiar strategy for Porter, moving from uncertainty or struggle in the verses (“I try to run, and I grow weary”) to soaring uplift in the chorus (“You lift me higher / Out of the fire, out of the flames”).
The video, directed by Douglas Bernardt, adds a layer of fraught context to the song — opening with a scene that imagines a young man watching a news report about the 1992 Los Angeles riots, sparked by the acquittal of four polices offers in the Rodney King trial. That young man could be a stand-in for Porter, who was 19 at the time of the riots, and who has spoken out about the racism he encountered in Bakersfield, the town where he grew up, and to which he eventually returned. It also bears an implicit tie to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and to the stories of young men like Freddie Gray, who died in police custody in Baltimore in 2015.
In the video, that young man (played by dancer and choreographer Jemoni Powe) moves through the world in a shifting scale: at times he shrinks to Ant Man size, as if overwhelmed by the immensity of the struggle. (At one point we see him pursued by a cat.) But his movements, informed by jook dance, are fluid and assured.
As the song progresses, and Porter’s encouragements catch hold, the figure in the video grows to human scale and beyond — towering over his city. The closing shot shows him in duplicate: peering through the front door of his house, and also looming above it, as a protector. “There are so many things in life that can get you down and make you feel small,” notes Porter, “whether it be racism, self-doubt, insecurity, or financial situations. It’s about finding your source of strength to bring you back to seeing who you truly are so that you can be restored to the giant that you are.”
ALL RISE was produced by Troy Miller, who is known for his work with soulful British singer-songwriters — Emili Sandé, Laura Mvula, Jamie Cullum — and easily applies that spark to Porter. “Revival” is a fitting first taste, for the way that it invokes a personal stamp, rooted in the gospel church, even as it reaches for a universal feeling.
As Porter notes, ALL RISE — which, as you may recall, is also the title of a large-scale piece by Wynton Marsalis, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic with a 100-piece choir — summons not only a ceremonial gesture but also an exhortation, and a call to action.
Not to mention a path toward inner piece. “I was soothed by my voice as a child and I think that's the same thing others get from it,” he says in the press notes. “I’m trying to heal myself with these songs.”
ALL RISE releases on April 17; preorder it here.