Kirk Whalum - Romance Language

Kirk Whalum
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Ever since the release of his album debut, Floppy Disk, in 1985, Memphis, Tennessee native Kirk Whalum has accomplished two enviable feats: incorporated multiple genres (soul, jazz, gospel and blues) into a trademark signature sax style and growing his fan base and resume in the process. Thanks to his quarter century of musicianship and long list of collaborators (Al Green, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Babyface and Barbra Streisand, naming just a few), it's hard to imagine that there's anyone left with which to join forces. Surprisingly, however, Mr.
Ever since the release of his album debut, Floppy Disk, in 1985, Memphis, Tennessee native Kirk Whalum has accomplished two enviable feats: incorporated multiple genres (soul, jazz, gospel and blues) into a trademark signature sax style and growing his fan base and resume in the process. Thanks to his quarter century of musicianship and long list of collaborators (Al Green, Luther Vandross, Whitney Houston, Babyface and Barbra Streisand, naming just a few), it's hard to imagine that there's anyone left with which to join forces. Surprisingly, however, Mr. Whalum's done just that on his latest CD, Romance Language, paying homage to a pair of iconic influences---Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane---and spotlighting the pipes of his brother and uncle to prove that he wasn't the only Whalum in the family gifted with timing and talent.
 
Not as much of a remake compilation as it is a tribute to a different era, Romance Language makes it clear from the outset that the sound may be modernized, but that the execution is still as lush, languorous and lilting as his predecessors. For example, Mr. Whalum's signature style buoys along the opening ballad, "They Say It's Wonderful," and is complemented by his brother Kevin's warm, resonant baritone without the vocals trying to overcome or outshine the fragility of the moment. "Lush Life" still lives up to its name in its slow, sensual unfurling, and "My One and Only Love" still has a tender, timeless feel with Kevin's rich and nimble delivery. The best of the re-imagingings have to be "You Are Too Beautiful," which has a tempo that invites a lively, after-dinner dance by lovestruck couples by candlelight, and "My One And Only Love," a song that demonstrates better than any of the others that future Kevin and Kirk duos are as inevitable as they are essential in future offerings.
 
After the classic renderings, The Sultan of Sax continues to work that time-tested mojo on some popular urban-styled soul: the delightfully disarming trill of flutes kicks off a cover of Joe's "I Wanna Know" as breathy female vocals swirl beneath his ending notes, and another waltz-worthy song comes in the form of the restyled Eric Benet and Tamia favorite, "Spend My Life With You," due to its undulating rhythms. "I Wish I Wasn't" is put across just as vulnerably as Heather Headley originally intended it, and Brandy's "Almost Doesn't Count" is covered by the Whalum boys' venerated uncle, Hugh "Peanuts"Whalum, (80+ years old giving that spry performance? Really?) who matter-of-factly, yet moodily, delivers the rueful soliloquy of a love that could've been: "Maybe you'll be sorry, maybe you will be cold/maybe you'll come running back to me Baby, from that cruel cold world/You almost convinced me that you're gonna stick around/but everybody knows, almost doesn't count." A deft and delectable blend of old and new-school, on Romance Language Mr. Whalum  and family pay homage to the greats and put their own stamp on the genre at the same time.....like anyone expected anything less from Cool Man Kirk. Highly Recommended.

 By Melody Charles


CLICK HERE to listen to Romance Language

 
Featured Album - Will Downing - "Romantique, Part 1"
Featured Album - The Soul Rebels - "Poetry In Motion"
Album of the Month - Plunky & Oneness - "Afroclectic"
Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"

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