One has to speak in superlatives when describing Kirk Whalum. He is one of the most influential contemporary saxophonists of his generation.
Highlights in his career include a Grammy nomination for his collaboration with
Bob James, "Joined At The Hip", Kirk Whalum has also captured three No. 1 album slots on the Billboard Jazz Charts, and has had several albums chart in the Jazz Top 10. As for his romantic interpretive ability, his is the standout sax solo on
Whitney Houston's worldwide smash hit "I Will Always Love You." His trademark saxophone stylings have been heard on stage and on hundreds of recordings with the preeminent pop, jazz, R&B and gospel musicians of our time, including
Barbra Streisand, Edwin Hawkins,
Luther Vandross and Quincy Jones. A seasoned veteran of the studio and the road, a catalogue of Kirk's featured session work would fill a Who's Who of modern music.
Kirk Whalum started on the road that would lead him to jazz distinction in Memphis, where he played in his father's church choir. Raised on gospel music, R&B and Memphis blues, Whalum ultimately discovered jazz during high school. He received a music scholarship from Texas Southern University in Houston, where he formed his own band, playing original compositions on the Texas club circuit. After opening for
Bob James in Houston one night, Kirk Whalum was invited to New York by the pianist to appear on his album "12".
Bob James, in recalling that night, said, "He [Kirk Whalum] was opening for a concert I played in Houston. I was actually able to watch part of his show - unlike most of the time when I don't get to hear the opening act. I just loved him."
Kirk Whalum signed to Columbia shortly thereafter, and released five albums for the label: "Floppy Disk", "And You Know That!", "The Promise", "Cache" and "In This Life" (three of which were produced by
Bob James). Next came the Grammy-nominated "Joined At The Hip" with
Bob James in '96 on Warner Bros. Records.
In 1997, Kirk signed with Warner Bros. Records and released his solo debut for the label and his sixth solo project, "Colors." A most inclusive endeavor, the album paid tribute to musical and cultural diversity, a theme reflected in Kirk's association with Hearts Against Racism & Prejudice (H.A.R.P) for which he serves as president.
Next came his "Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter 1" release which ascended both the gospel and jazz charts, followed by his monster hit "For You", an album that relentlessly occupies the rarified atmosphere at the top of the jazz charts, two years after its release.
Kirk Whalum is also part of the all star lineup on Warner Bros. Records "Casino Lights '99", featuring
Boney James, Mark Turner, Kenny Garrett,
Rick Braun and Gabriela Anders. Recorded live in Montreux, it captures the
collaborative magic of that city and its world-renowned jazz festival.
Kirk released a second gospel album on his Top Drawer label, entitled "Hymns: In The Garden",
and has produced a collection of classics for his uncle, Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum, whose magical, smooth voice has wowed his fans
now for more than 50 years.
Undoubtedly, one of the most prominent and prolific jazz saxophonists of our time, Kirk Whalum celebrates every opportunity to create music.
Whether Kirk Whalum is interpreting the melodies of others or spinning his own inspired beauty, he is an artist of infinite variation. The cross-pollination of influences and personal history enriches his performance and expression.
While his musical accomplishments have brought him professional and critical acclaim with a total
of seven Grammy Nominations and one Stellar Award (Best Gospel Instrumental Album), it is his benevolent spirit and charitable
efforts that truly define him. Kirk Whalum has hosted numerous benefit concerts on behalf of many organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Pasadena (CA), the Tennessee YMCA and he fulfilled a ten year benefit commitment for the Houston Leukemia/Lymphoma Society.
Impressive would, indeed, sum up his career, but if you asked him, Kirk Whalum would simply
say, "It's grace."