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Kharen Hill / Vincent Soyez
Nathan East (left) and Gregory Porter both stood out Sunday at the 56th annual Grammy awards.
The French electronic music superstars Daft Punk and Grammy-winning Best New Artists Macklemore & Ryan Lewis might have cleaned house at the 56th annual Grammys on Sunday, but a pair of jazz artists with San Diego ties stood out as well.
Soul-jazz singer Gregory Porter went home with the Grammy for best Jazz Vocal Album for Liquid Spirit. Porter was also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance for the song "Hey Laura," which is about a man Porter says "really hasn't quite figured out that the relationship is over." Unfortunately for Porter, the young rising star Gary Clark Jr. claimed that Grammy.
For the unfamiliar, Porter attended San Diego State on a football scholarship before hurting his shoulder and ending a would-be football career. He turned his focus to jazz and started jamming around town. You could say he made the right choice: His first three albums were all nominated for Grammys.
Porter didn't record his first album as a leader until age 39, but his 2010 debut, Water, was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal Album. His original ballad "Real Good Hands," off his 2012 album, Be Good, got a nod for best traditional R&B performance.
"They accidentally got it right," Porter laughs about this year's nominations.
"I'm not strategically trying to be in between soul, jazz and gospel...." Porter told The Associated Press. "The people that I've been moved by are singers who have a soulful expression no matter what the genre -- Nat King Cole, Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Leon Thomas and Andy Bey," a fellow Best Jazz Vocal Album Grammy nominee this year.
While auditing a jazz class at UCSD, Porter found a mentor in faculty member Kamau Kenyatta, who was impressed by his polished sound and encouraged him to pursue a musical career.
"When I think about Gregory's strengths as a vocalist, the first thing that comes to mind is the richness and beauty of his sound," said Kenyatta, who produced or co-produced Porter's three albums. "He can be romantic, subtle and sensitive or virile, powerful and commanding."
You may have noticed another San Diegan on-air on Sunday night. No, we’re not referring to Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Katy Perry or Pink: We’re talking about Nathan East. OK, so you may not know his face, per se, but you’ve definitely heard the San Diego native’s work. East has performed, recorded or co-written songs by Eric Clapton, Anita Baker, Babyface, B.B. King, George Harrison, Elton John and Michael Jackson. He also composed the music for "Easy Lover" – a No. 1 hit for Phil Collins – and plays bass in the chart-topping contemporary jazz group Fourplay.
The world-renowned master of the low end has definitely got chops, and on Sunday, he showed them off in prime time with Daft Punk, who tapped East to take the stage with them and throw down the funky, hip-shaking licks from their Grammy-winning Record of the Year smash "Get Lucky" alongside vocalist Pharrell Williams, Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers and legendary R&B singer Stevie Wonder. Daft Punk also claimed the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the song.
Here's more details on the 2014 Grammys.