April 4, 2010

Kirk Whalum - The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 3

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole’s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. From his early days in Memphis, where he played in his father's church choir, saxophonist extraordinaire Kirk Whalum has drawn inspiration from a musical amalgam of gospel, R&B, blues, and jazz. During an illustrious career that began in 1984 (when he was ‘discovered’ by Bob James) his music has often betrayed the depth of his faith and this was confirmed in 1998 with the release of The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 1. Although it was a glittering example of the way that throughout black history gospel and jazz have often intertwined, his pop jazz approach did not always find critical favor. However, the passing of time and subsequent launch of gospel orientated albums such as Unconditional and Hymns In The Garden meant that by 2002, when his ten track The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 2 came along, critics seemed much more relaxed about a sacred message being contained in what appeared to be a secular envelope.

Eight years on and attitudes have changed. Whalum, together with artists such as Jonathan Butler, George Duke, Tom Braxton, Oleta Adams and the late Wayman Tisdale have all played their part in making ‘gospel jazz’ a legitimate adjunct to the contemporary genre. As a consequence Whalum’s brand new seventeen song double CD, the expansive The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 3, is sure to be recognized as a star studded extension to this overall process.

In fact, although released in March 2010, The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 3 was recorded back in 2007 at Reid Temple in Glenn Dale, Maryland. As well as notable performances by Lalah Hathaway, Doc Powell, John Stoddart and George Duke it also includes significant contributions from several of Whalum’s family members.

Whalum’s shrewd use of popular classics to convey the message of his faith knows no bounds and a case in point is the silky rendition of the much covered Thom Bell – Linda Creed composition ‘You Are Everything’ for which he partners with the excellent guitarist Doc Powell. Other gems include George Duke’s reworking of the Celine Dion pop smash ‘Because You Loved Me’ while Whalum’s treatment of the Frankie Beverly & Maze hit ‘Running Away’ owes much to the vocals of his brother, Kevin Whalum. Kevin is equally impressive for ‘Make Me A Believer’ which was originally recorded and co-composed by Luther Vandross yet in terms of old fashioned sentimentality there is none better than the mellow interpretation of the timeless ‘Smile’ that is effortlessly delivered by Kirk’s uncle, Hugh ‘Peanuts’ Whalum. That notwithstanding a real Secret Garden favorite is the brass drenched ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ for which Lalah Hathaway on vocals is outstanding and Whalum on sax inspirational.

The Gospel According To Jazz Chapter 3 has all the credentials necessary to make it work for different audiences and at different levels. For more go to www.kirkwhalum.com

Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.

Posted by Denis Poole at April 4, 2010 4:51 PM