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Kirk Whalum: Unconditional

There has never been a truer title than For You, Kirk Whalum’s 1998 bestseller that sold tons of copies and generated four hit singles. The CD, sensual and funky, showcased the veteran saxophonist’s burnished tenor and was memorable for its covers: “Anytime,” “Same Ole Love,” “That’s the Way Love Goes” and others. It was Whalum’s gift to his fans: a CD with no filler.

Whalum is back, with Paul Brown as producer, with seven originals and only three covers this time. It’s solid, as is all of Whalum’s work, but not as memorable as For You, which has remained firmly on the smooth-jazz charts since its release. The covers, all midtempo, are intriguing: ‘N Sync’s “God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You”; “Can’t Stop the Rain,” which was written and features vocals by Shai; and “I Try,” the memorable worldwide smash by vocalist Macy Gray. There are two tributes to Whalum’s foremost influences: “Groverworked and Underpaid” is a funky ode to the late saxophonist, and “Waltz for David” is a nod to David Sanborn, who has made it clear that he is big fan of Whalum’s.

Whalum has been a smooth-jazz staple for a long time, and this certainly won’t do anything to hurt his career. But Whalum seems restrained here, either by the format or from the fact that he has made so much music in his career.

Originally Published