Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Kirk Whalum: The Gospel According to Jazz, Chapter IV

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Kirk Whalum’s commitment is beyond question. He’s an ordained minister who puts in long, righteous hours as a volunteer at Manna House, an agency in Memphis that serves the homeless. And although his smooth-jazz aesthetic tends toward the less-than-challenging, he’s also a dedicated musician-even at his most florid and pop-sweetened (e.g., his famous sax break on Whitney Houston’s megahit “I Will Always Love You”) he pours heart, soul and sinew into every note.

It’s that “less-than-challenging” part, though, that may give pause. This two-disc set, recorded live at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, is the latest installment in Whalum’s ongoing Gospel According to Jazz series. A listener seeking the kind of soul-cleansing fusion of spiritual and musical transcendence that permeates, say, Ellington’s sacred works (or even a good Mavis Staples performance) may not find it here. For the most part, neither Whalum’s music nor his message compels us to confront any kind of spiritual, aesthetic or existential reckoning.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.
Originally Published