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Jazz - Released October 11, 2019 | Artistry Music

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Contemporary Jazz - Released October 17, 2000 | Craft Recordings

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Contemporary Jazz - Released October 16, 1998 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released June 23, 2006 | Columbia

Bob James gets the credit for discovering the passionate, soulful sax of Whalum in 1984. But you just know that a talent this size would have emerged on its own sooner or later. Between then and this release at the end of the decade, Whalum established himself as a major force on the contemporary scene, playing alongside the likes of James, Luther Vandross, Al Jarreau, and Larry Carlton, and releasing two powerful solo discs, 1985's Floppy Disk and 1988's And You Know That. But this third effort was his strongest outing to date, displaying a versatility which ranges from spiritual ("The Promise") to Brazilian (the tropical flavored "Desperately") to straight ahead rock & roll (the Larry Carlton tribute "LC's Back," which features the fancy licks of the guitarist himself). As producer, James gives his protégé's horn some fanciful grooves to work in and out of, most notably on the catchy, pop-like "Out a Hand." James also has a good time soloing on "Desperately" and the bass oriented "Don't Even Look." There are a lot of possible favorites in this collection, but the Carlton tribute is the one that hooks you from the very beginning. With this album, Whalum delivered in spades upon his early promise. ~ Jonathan Widran
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Jazz - Released August 31, 2010 | Rendezvous Music

Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway is Kirk Whalum's second album in 2010. In March, he released The Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter III, his first recording in two years, with a star-studded lineup. Everything Is Everything, produced by veteran Matt Pierson, features 11 tunes closely associated with the late singer, songwriter, and pianist. Hathaway recorded ten of these himself; the other he wrote for Blood Stone. Whalum is joined by a stellar cast which includes John Stoddart on Fender Rhodes, Shedrick Mitchell on organ, guitarists Jef Lee Johnson and Larry Campbell, bassist Christian McBride, percussionist Bashiri Johnson, and drummer John Roberts. (Guest appearances by Rick Braun, Jeff Golub, and Robert Randolph round it out.) This is primarily an instrumental set, recorded in a polished but old-school, funky '70s soul-jazz style -- nearly CTI-like in its production approach, with some fine vocal performances sweetening the deal. Musiq Soulchild lends his mellifluous tenor to the slow-burning "We're Still Friends," and Hathaway's daughter Lalah graces the silky babymaker "You Had to Know." Whalum evokes his best Grover Washington, Jr. on the kick-off track "Giving Up," and the lyric influence of fellow Memphian David Fathead Newman is heard on "Someday We'll All Be Free," featuring a lovely, tastefully articulated string arrangement by Gil Goldstein. The recording of Leon Russell's "Song for You" is a real highlight here, as Whalum references Hathaway's vocal phrasing on his tenor. Goldstein's strings are up in the mix but aren't intrusive. "Valdez in the Country" digs deeper into Hathaway's original to bring the Latin polyrhythms to the fore, and Golub's guitar solo is a monster, adding grit to the interplay between the rhythm section and percussionists. "Je Vous Aime (I Love You)," one of two cuts here written by Hathaway with Leroy Hutson, features a female gospel chorus. Randolph's pedal steel on "Tryin' Times" adds some nasty to this funky number. "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" closes it with Stoddart taking an incidental lead vocal backed by a chorus as Braun and Randolph round out the core band. Andy Snitzer's programming (this is the only cut it appears on) is minimal, making it suitable for the dancefloor and remixing. McBride's electric bass is the driving force, and the chorus is chilling in its emotional reach. Whether intended or not, Whalum's range of musical creativity on Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway, while keeping it grounded in the singer's oeuvre, makes this the album by which the saxophonist will be judged from here on out. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released February 14, 2012 | Rendezvous Music

Booklet
The 1963 Impulse! Records LP John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman helped to redefine the renowned jazz saxophonist by pairing him with a singer on a collection of standards, showing that Coltrane wasn't (or wasn't only) an avant-gardist bent on playing free jazz. Nearly 50 years later, Kirk Whalum's Romance Language isn't going to have the same impact on his career, even though he has recorded the same half-dozen tunes with his brother Kevin Whalum taking the vocals. Kirk doesn't have Coltrane's reputation for one thing, and for another, he and Kevin are not trying to re-create the Coltrane/Hartman sound on Romance Language; they just happen to be performing the same songs. In their readings, evergreens like Irving Berlin's "They Say It's Wonderful," Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life," and Rodgers & Hart's "You Are Too Beautiful" are given smooth jazz arrangements typical of Kirk's other albums. Fellow musicians such as John Stoddart (prominently featured on electric piano on "Lush Life"), Kevin Turner (who solos on electric guitar on the long coda to "You Are Too Beautiful"), and Michael "Nomad" Ripoll (who launches "Autumn Serenade" with some flamenco-style acoustic guitar) join in to produce instrumental beds for Kirk to solo over in a warm, unhurried manner. And Kevin has a burnished croon more reminiscent of Nat King Cole than Hartman (who was in the Billy Eckstine school of singers). To fill out the disc to CD-worthy length, Kirk performs instrumentals of more contemporary material by the likes of Eric Benet and Terry Lewis & Jimmy Jam Harris. And the brothers' 83-year-old uncle, Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum, comes on to sing "Almost Doesn't Count" and shows them how it should be done. He is closer in sound and spirit to the album being paid tribute here, and his sole contribution whets the appetite for more. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Gospel - Released March 16, 2010 | Rendezvous Music

12 years after saxophonist and composer Kirk Whalum issued the first The Gospel According to Jazz recording comes its third chapter. Recorded live at Reid Temple in Glenn Dale, MD, the set contains a stellar backing band that includes Reginald Veal on upright bass, organist Jerry Peters, percussionist Lenny Castro, trumpeter Aaron Broadus, and additional horns, vocals, and backing vocals. As is customary for these recordings, there are also a number of special guests including George Duke, Lalah Hathaway, Doc Powell, John Stoddart, and a slew of family members including sons, uncles, cousins, and nephews. The double-disc soundtrack contains the entire concert. Disc one begins with Whalum playing solo on “Call to Worship,” a Coltrane-esque recitation of hymns in modal fashion. Things get funkier on the New Orleans-inspired funky yet straight-ahead jazz in Whalum’s original “Fit to Battle,” before moving toward Latin-tinged jazz on “Ananias and Sapphira.” Hathaway and Stoddart do a lovely job on the Nat Adderley-Luther Vandross tune “Make Me a Believer"; they are stellar on “He’s Been Just That Good,” and Stoddardt shines on his original “If You Ever Need Me,” with inventive and elegant scat singing. Duke’s piano is gorgeously lyrical on “Because You Loved Me.” Disc two contains the funky soul-jazz of “Jesus Africa Jesus,” with its faux reggae rhythm section underscoring Whalum's soprano before it becomes a rap tune. Hathaway makes a return appearance on his “It’s What I Do,” and on a very contemporary gospel reading of “The Thrill Is Gone” that keeps B.B. King's blues feel intact. One of the two bonus tracks features Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife Serita on “You Are Everything,” that echoes Barry White's amorous recitations -- only quite wholesomely -- to close it out. Ultimately, this is a set that appeals more to Whalum’s gospel fans than to his jazz fans, but that has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of what’s here. All the musical performances are top-notch and walk his wonderful trademark line between straight-ahead and contemporary jazz, urban gospel and R&B. This the finest chapter in the series yet. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released March 12, 2002 | Columbia - Legacy

The Best of Kirk Whalum collects a bevy of tracks off smooth jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum's five Columbia albums. Despite the fact that it was these albums that made Whalum a star, they were inconsistent, and it is nice to have his most potent material organized onto one disc. Included are songs from the concert staple "Kyle's Smile" and the soulful "Glow" to mid-'90s material like "X-Factor" and "Peaceful Hideaway." Since most of Whalum's fans probably already have the albums these tracks are culled from, it seems a bit lacking that no previously unreleased material was included. Nonetheless, this is an essential compilation for any smooth jazz fan. ~ Matt Collar
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Gospel - Released March 23, 2015 | Rendezvous Music

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Jazz - Released May 22, 1995 | Columbia

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Contemporary Jazz - Released July 22, 2003 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released October 22, 2008 | Rendezvous Music

Contemporary jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum decided to take a little trip back in time on Roundtrip, back to the Memphis club scene that nurtured him early on, and to record some of his earliest compositions -- and ones written expressly for him -- with fresh ears as well as some new ones. Recording in four different places from Memphis to Los Angeles to New York to England, Whalum asked some old pals to pop in, like Earl Klugh, Jeff Golub, Gerald Albright, and Philippe Saisse, as well as some of his stalwart rocksteady bandmates such as Rex Rideout, drummer Michael White, bassist Melvin Davis, guitarist Mark Jaimes, and trumpeter James McMillan. There are a few other surprises as well, such as the appearance of Kim Fields on "In a Whisper," Shanice on "Inside," and sons Kyle, Hugh, and Kevin making appearances as well. Issued on his own Rendezvous Music imprint, this is Whalum at his most relaxed and celebratory. That said, Roundtrip has no less polish than anything recorded over his nearly 30-year career, and the label was his idea. It's a deeply personal offering that is celebratory in nature rather than merely reflective. The pairing with Klugh on "Ruby Ruby Ruby" is on the money. The keen melodic sensibilities both men possess complement one another perfectly, and the mix is skeletal enough to let Klugh's gorgeous guitar playing stand out. Whalum's tenor playing and the light, Latin-kissed composition are sparse and in the pocket. The reading of Nat Adderley, Jr.'s "The Wave" (the original is from 1988's And You Know That LP on Columbia) doesn't work quite so well in that Saisse does all the keyboards and programming and Whalum just blows over the top. The problem is that the synthetic handclaps add nothing; in fact, they detract from what otherwise might have been a nice funkier version of the tune. "Big 'Ol Shoes," which immediately follows, however, gets right down to it. Co-written by Whalum and Rideout, it's funky in all the right places, with one of those transcendent choruses that Whalum slips into his own tunes so often. The Grover Washington, Jr./Creed Taylor/Kudu feel is all over this one, with some killer keyboard work from Rideout and tasty guitars by Darrell Crooks. The vocal performance by Shanice on "Inside" is a beautiful urban soul and nearly gospel performance, and Whalum lets his vocalist get to it without getting in her way. Producer James McMillan (who co-wrote the cut) keeps his star back in the mix until it's time for him to blow a solo. Kim Fields speaks her track, and it works seamlessly. Rideout, who co-wrote the cut, produces it and takes the same approach with Whalum, though the saxophonist plays more fills, allowing his in-the-pocket sense of lyric improvisation to underscore the vocalist's lines. "Back in the Day" is a slick but fruitful hip-hop track with rapper Caleb tha Bridge and Albright on alto. This is positive hip-hop, with plenty of soul casting a reflective and nostalgic look at the past. Whalum and John Stoddart act as a backing chorus. It's innocent but not cloying, the groove is solid, and the saxophonists playfully entwine around one another and do call and response, ending up playing harmony in the solo break. The chorus has "single" written all over it -- if only the square urban and smooth jazz radio programmers would get out of their rut and test it on an actual audience. The set ends with another early Whalum composition in "Afterthought" from his debut album, Floppy Disk, in 1985. The lithe groove shimmers and swirls as White's backbeat kicks the tune just enough in contrast to the deep bassline of Alex Al and the vibes-like percussion of Kevin Ricard; Rideout's keyboards paint Whalum's backdrop brightly and he blows the tune out of memory, from that charmed place of having the gratitude and sheer lyric talent needed to look back. It's not hollow nostalgia here, but rather the quintessential taste to revisit this tune with so much soul over two decades later and play it like he means it -- only there's wisdom here, too: the tune means something a little different now, and his blowing near the cut's end is full of deep swelling emotion and smoking chops he didn't have in 1985. Anybody could play his old tunes, or replay them, or re-record a greatest-hits album, but Whalum didn't do that; he made something new and beautiful out of his past that points to an even brighter, more aesthetically satisfying future now that he -- instead of another record company -- controls it. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek
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Jazz - Released October 22, 2008 | Rendezvous Music

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Jazz - Released September 21, 1992 | Columbia

Kirk Whalum is a fine saxophonist, but most of the music on Caché is quiet storm drivel, especially the numerous vocal tracks. Caché features guest appearances by Nile Rodgers, Brenda Russell, Gerald Albright, Angela Bofill, Wilton Felder, and Bob James, so there is no shortage of great talent on the album. However, most of the music is ordinary and, even with stellar talent, ordinary music will always be ordinary. And listeners certainly don't need another instrumental version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." ~ Tim Griggs
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Jazz - Released February 16, 1988 | Columbia

Light pop/fusion though Whalum's a very good player. ~ Ron Wynn
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Jazz - Released September 16, 2008 | KOCH RECORDS

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Gospel - Released October 29, 2002 | Craft Recordings

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Contemporary Jazz - Released September 23, 1997 | Craft Recordings

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Jazz - Released December 14, 2010 | Rendezvous Music

Jazz - Released August 30, 2019 | Artistry Music

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