When Buxton-based singer Jennifer Porter decided to record her album “Sun Come and Shine”, she thought out loud that she wanted to work with someone who “grooves like Bernard Purdie”, the legendary drummer. and musical director who worked with Aretha Franklin and BB Roi.
She ended up doing better than that.
Porter’s husband Dana Packard took a chance and reached out to Purdie, 82, hoping he would be ready to play on a track. Responsive to the idea, Purdie asked Porter to send him a song.
“He called back the next day and told me he liked my voice and my songs, and that he would like to play not just on one song, but on the whole album,” Porter said. Not only that, Purdie said he wanted to record the tracks with his band in New Jersey. “He said his players knew how to support a singer like me and would give me room to ‘do my thing’.”
So, last summer, Porter and Packard made three trips to Jankland Recordings in Belmar, New Jersey, to record tracks for “Sun Come and Shine,” released on June 18th. The album shines with a hybrid sound of roots, blues and jazz that showcases Porter’s soft and melodious voice and is packed with high-level musicians.
Jankland Recordings is owned by Steve Jankowski, the trumpeter of Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, who played horns on the album, made the horn arrangements and was a “good, calm studio presence,” Porter said. The rest of the group consisted of Purdie’s team of guitarist George Naha (Bo Diddly, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett), Tom Tinko on saxophone and Rob Paparozzi (Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones) on harmonica. Purdie plays drums on each track.
Prior to this album, Porter released “These years” in 2018 and a few others dating from 1998. Porter and Packard also have a long history in theater and film; they co-founded The Originals Theater Company in 1988 and Honey Tree Films a decade later.
Porter said Purdie’s approach to recording was “very old school, one or two takes per song. He was no longer thinking, and the magic is lost.
Porter said she and Purdie worked as a team to develop the grooves and sound, but he was the one who decided when the band was ready to record.
“When he was happy he would close his eyes and smile and just say ‘beautiful, beautiful’ over and over again. He also danced whenever he liked the groove.
I can only imagine that Purdie danced a lot during these sessions because “Sun Come and Shine”, with nine original tracks and a cover of “Something On Your Mind” by Dino Valenti, is one glorious groove after another.
From the effervescent soulful title track “Show Me Your Love”, to the sassy and honey-sweet “Satin Shoes”, to the playful swampy “You’re So Easy To Be With” and to the reflective “Bitter New York Night”, the album is a powerhouse of writing and arrangements. “Sun Come and Shine” is sweet as good Cognac and has more sparkle than New York’s diamond district.
Some of Porter’s vocals were recorded in New Jersey, but the mother sill, as well as backing vocals and a few parts of Porter’s Fender Rhodes (keys), were recorded at his home in Buxton. The pandemic has closed all studios in Maine, so a room in Porter and Packard’s house has been turned into a recording booth.
“It worked well! Every once in a while Dana had to be on crow or bluejay patrol, when they figured out that they would sound great on the album, but other than that it turned out perfectly, ”Porter said.
Other musicians who have recorded parts of the album at various studios across the country are CJ Chenier (accordion), Christian McBride (bass), Cindy Cashdollar (steel pedal), Wilbur Bascombe (bass), Miho Nobuzane ( piano) and Dan Boone (bass). The three backing singers are Audrey Wheeler Downing, Layonne Holmes and Kim Davis. Congratulations to all.
“Sun Come and Shine” is available online at jennifernicholeporter.com and Bull Moose locations.