Album cover of Jennifer Porter’s “Sun Come and Shine.” Photo by Dana Packard, Design by Billy Mitchell

When Buxton-based singer Jennifer Porter set out to record her album “Sun Come and Shine,” she thought aloud that she wanted work with someone who “grooves like Bernard Purdie,” the legendary drummer and music director who worked with Aretha Franklin and B.B. King.

She ended up doing better than that.

Porter’s husband, Dana Packard, took a chance and reached out to the 82-year-old Purdie hoping he’d be willing to play on one track. Receptive to the idea, Purdie asked that Porter send him a song.

“He called back the next day and said he loved my voice and loved my songs, and that he would like to play not just on the 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 lay down the tracks for “Sun Come and Shine,” released on June 18. The album shines with a hybrid sound of roots, blues and jazz that showcases Porter’s smooth, melodious vocals and is bursting with top-shelf musicians.

Jennifer Porter with the musicians who played on “Sun Come and Shine.” Photo by Dana Packard

Jankland Recordings is owned by Steve Jankowski, the trumpet player for Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago, who played horns on the album, did the horn arrangements and was a “good, calm presence in the studio,” Porter said. The rest of the band was Purdie’s crew 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 every track.

Prior to this album, Porter released “These Years” in 2018 and a handful of others dating back to 1998. Porter and Packard also have a long history in theater and film; they co-founded The Originals Theatre 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 thought any more, and the magic is lost.”

Jennifer Porter and Bernard Purdie. Photo by Dana Packard

Porter said that she and Purdie worked as a team developing the grooves and the 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 grin and just say ‘beautiful, beautiful’ over and over. He would also dance whenever he liked the groove.”

I can only imagine Purdie got a lot of dancing in during those sessions because “Sun Come and Shine,” with nine original tunes and a cover of Dino Valenti’s “Something On Your Mind,” is one glorious groove after another.

From the effervescent title track to the soulful “Show Me Your Love,” the sassy and honey sweet “Satin Shoes,” the swampy, playful “You’re So Easy To Be With” and the reflective “Bitter New York Night,” the album is a powerhouse of songwriting and arrangements. “Sun Come and Shine” goes down smooth like a fine Cognac and has more sparkle than New York City’s diamond district.

Some of Porter’s vocals were recorded in New Jersey but the motherlode, along with backing vocal parts and few of Porter’s Fender Rhodes (keys) parts, were recorded at her house in Buxton. The pandemic closed all studios in Maine, so a room in Porter and Packard’s home was turned into a recording booth.

“It worked great! Every now and then, Dana had to be on crow or bluejay patrol, when they got it into their heads that they’d sound great on the album, but other than that, it went perfectly,” said Porter.

The other musicians who recorded parts for the album at various studios around the country are C.J. Chenier (accordion), Christian McBride (bass), Cindy Cashdollar (pedal steel), Wilbur Bascombe (bass), Miho Nobuzane (piano) and Dan Boone (bass). The three backing vocalists are Audrey Wheeler Downing, Layonne Holmes and Kim Davis. Bravo to all of them.

“Sun Come and Shine” is available online at jennifernicholeporter.com and at Bull Moose locations.


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