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Gregory Porter kicks off Jazz Appreciation Month

Gregory Porter has his career headed the direction he wants, but knows success can be elusive.

"I've been in New York seven years now, plotting and scheming to get a record out there," he says.

He got his wish in February with the national release, "Be Good," and will return to Pittsburgh to help boost it and his career along.

On Tuesday, Porter will be the first guest in this year's Jazz Appreciation Month concerts. He was here in June as part of the Pittsburgh JazzLive International festival, also sponsored by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust.

Jazz Appreciation Month concerts have been offered by the Trust since 2008, with stars such as Jon Hendricks and new performers such as Carolyn Perteete.

This year, the series of concerts is trying to show "the influence that jazz music, America's classical music, has had on the world: north, south, east, and west," says Janis Burley Wilson, vice president of education and community engagement from the Trust.

California-born Porter will represent the "west" side of jazz, but more importantly, bring a new sound to many fans.

Porter was nominated for a Grammy award for his first album in 2010, and worked since then to get a wider-released album out. He is happy to have met that goal with "Be Good" and now is trying to keep his jazz career on track.

Porter got involved in musical theater while in college at San Diego State University, were he also was a football player, until a shoulder injury ended his gridiron days.

He says he wanted to put together a career as a jazz singer, but was finding work in shows such as "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues" and "Nat King Cole and Me" as "a good way to pay the bills."

Still, he was adding club dates to those jobs and finally decided to move to New York City to concentrate on jazz side of his career.

Porter not only is a good singer with a strong baritone voice, but he also writes a most of his material. He finds they help him express more of his own emotions and feelings.

"Standards are what they are," he says. "They are about the craft and the art rather than the emotion. I like doing my own material, but I still know people are going to want me to sing 'Fly Me to the Moon.' "

He will appear here with his own band of pianist Chip Crawford, bassist Aaron James, drummer Emanuel Harrold and alto sax player Yosuke Sato.

He will be wearing his trademark cap. He jokes about the hat providing him "$2 million in endorsements," but quickly admits that is not true.

The hat, which looks quite warm, is as "heavy as a T-shirt," he says, and is always with him simply because he likes it.

"It's just bit of my personal stuff," he says.

Jazz Appreciation Month acts

• 8 p.m. April 10 -- Pianist Chuchito Valdes, the latest generation of a Cuban jazz family, will represent the south of the jazz compass. Admission: $25

• 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. April 17 -- Saxophonist Cory Weeds from the "north" of Vancouver, will perform with organist Joey DeFrancesco. Admission: $25

• 7:30 and 9:390 p.m. April 24 -- Singer Rachelle Farrell will bring the soulful sound of the urban "east" to the concerts. Admission: $35; $30

All shows will be in the Cabaret at Theater Square.

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Additional Information:

Gregory Porter

What: Jazz Appreciation Month concerts highlighting 'North-South-East-West -- Directions in Jazz Live'

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday

Admission: $25

Where: Cabaret at Theater Square, Downtown

Details: 412-456-6666 or www.trustarts.org

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