Vernon Porter, a bassist and producer associated with fusion and smooth jazz outfits such as Full Moon and Above the Clouds, is not the same person as Jake "Vernon" Porter, veteran big-band jazzman from the '20s and the owner of the independent R&B label Combo in the '50s. They do have some details in common, however, above and beyond a surname which if personified would certainly come in handy for musicians lugging equipment around. To begin with, the locales to which these animated porters would be performing their cartage service would in some cases be identical -- Hollywood recording studios. Both performers turned to producing their own groups and music following decades of experience working with other bandleaders in and around Hollywood.
The musical differences between the two men with the same name is a tide that could flood the Los Angeles riverbed, at least in terms of what critics tend to find appealing and not appealing about the Los Angeles music scene. The older Porter is linked to the great big bands of yesteryear, a series of genius jazz stars, and an underground R&B scene that heavily inspired many '60s performers, especially Frank Zappa. The younger Vernon Porter's recording career began in the '70s and '80s on records by Dave Mason, Kenny Loggins, and Bette Midler, the type of products that by 2001 were inspiring no one, most likely to be found in the used record pile "take home free" section.
Jazz fusion has surely been one of this Porter's main bags. His earliest collaboration of note was with guitarist Buzzy Feiten, in a band called Full Moon, which began recording in the early '70s. Nearly three decades later there was Above the Clouds, a quintet that unites a quintet of studio players including saxophonist and flutist Vince Denham, guitarist Todd Robinson, and keyboardist Karen Hammack, whose surname describes a good place to be laying down when the smooth jazz starts up. The group began as a backing unit for flutist Tim Weisberg in 1997 and 1998. Porter produced the group's self-titled 1999 CD. Another similarity between the younger and older Vernon Porter can be found in band names they used. Contrast Full Moon or Above the Clouds with Jake Porter & the Buzzards: both artists obviously like looking at the sky when naming bands but they seem to have noticed different details.