June 2010

Kirk Whalum
The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter III

Religion isn’t just a part of Kirk Whalum’s life, it is his life. That’s what makes the third installment in Whalum’s fusion of gospel and jazz music such a true vision. You feel the power of Whalum’s spirit as you imagine him, eyes closed, playing his sax during a live recording in 2007 at the Reid Temple AME Church in Glenn Dale, Md. This chapter is the best in the “book” so far, as a number of guest artists and musical styles coalesce into a two-CD project (also available on DVD) that is just heavenly.

Whalum’s smooth-jazz base should welcome this onslaught of musical energy; gospel fans will dig it all. The CD begins with Whalum solo on “Call to Worship,” where his tone and phrase are impeccable, and concludes with a reprise of the Stylistics’ “You Are Everything,” with Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife, Serita, heaping praise on Jesus and each other that is at turns devotional and—gulp—sexy.

Originals are led by the funky and thumping “Fit to Battle” and “Rev.,” the latter dedicated to Whalum’s late father. “Africa Jesus Africa” is a bright reggae tune that segues into a powerful rap from Caleb the Bridge, and “It’s What I Do” is a soulful ballad with Lalah Hathaway. Other highlights: George Duke solo on “Because You Loved Me,” and Kirk’s famous uncle, Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum, channeling Nat “King” Cole on “Smile.”

Originally published in June 2010

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