Impressive. Billy’s Back on
Broadway by vocalist Billy Porter (Concord Records, 2014) delivers
with style and lots of happiness.
Backed by a variable ensemble of horns, strings and rhythm instruments,
Porter scores with 10 classics from Broadway musicals. Pianist Rob
Mounsey handled most of the arrangements. Other notables in the session
include trumpeter Barry Danielian, and saxophonists Scott Krietzer and
One can’t help but feel the joy in Porter’s voice as he croons
“Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Porter clearly owns the Sondheim-Styne
classic, aided not so subtly by the orchestra. He sings with a flair
similar to that of the late Sammy Davis Jr.
Porter brings a modern vibe to “I’ve Gotta Be Me,” while maintaining the
traditional spirit. A six-piece ensemble provides background vocals on
one of the most uplifting songs ever written about self-encouragement.
“I can’t be right for somebody else if I’m not right for me,” Porter
sings. One can almost hear a hint of Davis, with a side order of
“Happy Days Are Here Again / Get Happy” features Porter in a stylish
duet with pop star Cyndi Lauper. The tempo is slowed from the usual
arrangement, but that allows for the overlapping vocals to breathe. The
transition from one song to the next is seamless. The beauty is when
Porter sings the lyrics of one while Lauper does the other, then the two
combine for the climax, setting up the joyous ad lib toward the fade.
Billy’s Back on Broadway is Porter’s first solo album in almost
a decade. The title is a nod to Sammy Davis Jr.’s Sammy’s Back on
Broadway. Born in Pittsburgh, Porter grew up singing in a
Pentecostal church. He won a Tony award for his role as “Lola” in
Kinky Boots. He counts among his inspirations Jennifer Holliday (Dreamgirls)
and Barbra Streisand.
Porter is also a composer, playwright and director. Acting credits
include Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe, Smokey
Joe’s Café and the aforementioned Dreamgirls.
While well-known on the stage, Billy’s Back on Broadway should
get him noticed in another medium: radio.