November 2006

Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum
Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum

There’s no earthly reason why a virtual unknown can’t make his recording debut at 75. Meet Memphis-born Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, a St. Louis-bred treasure second only to its Gateway Arch. A tsunami of hyperbole is now flooding the media in hopes of turning him into a national phenomenon. The pianist-singer-tenor saxophonist deserves the belated exposure: His first recording is impressive.

The CD contains eight standards and two originals, and the vigor of his voice belies his age. It is velvety and stentorian, going from the breathy intimacy of Nat Cole (with whom he played briefly), to the grandiloquence of an orator. Occasionally, he’ll switch to scat—some of the most humorous this side of Clark Terry. His diction and timing are excellent. On “Kirkanhugh” (written for himself and his nephew, tenorist Kirk Whalum), Hugh shows how nimble his mind is as the two trade choruses, scatting and blowing, at a way-up tempo. His gospel chops are first-rate, as he demonstrates in “I Wanna Be Ready.” On a bonus track, “The Real Three Tenors,” the possibility of a Whalum dynasty is encouraged with the addition of tenorist Kenneth Whalum III and bassist Kyle Whalum, who jeopardizes the dream with his poor time-keeping.

Originally published in November 2006
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