Saxophonist Kirk Whalum is one of today's most versatile musicians, performing everything from jazz and R&B to gospel, rock and classic soul. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, Whalum brings his musical influences and some family members together on his latest album, Roundtrip.
Kirk Whalum had a rich musical upbringing but he would be the first to admit that his most important influence was his family.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Kirk was surrounded by music, inside and outside the home. He sang in his father's church choir, and learned to play music from his grandmother, a piano teacher, as well as his two uncles who toured the country playing jazz. With so much exposure to music at such a young age, Whalum simplified matters by concentrating on one thing, melody.
Kirk Whalum began his career playing jazz on the nightclub circuit in Houston, Texas. Before long, he was sharing the stage with some of R&B's brightest stars, including Whitney Houston, Babyface, Al Green and Luther Vandross. In addition to his solo output, Whalum contributed to a handful of motion picture soundtracks.
At 49, Kirk Whalum has come full circle with his new release Roundtrip. The collection includes several remakes of his early hits, as well first-time recordings of songs he composed while honing his skills in Houston.
Helping out on the album are vocalists Kim Fields and Shanice, along with special guests Earl Klugh, Gerald Albright and Jeff Golub. Three generations of Whalums perform on the title track: Kirk's uncle Hugh and brother Kevin on vocals, his nephew Kenneth on tenor saxophone, and son Kyle on bass.