Kirk Whalum

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                                          KIRK WHALUM

 

One of the most gifted cats to ever play the sax, spends some quality time with Terrill & shares into the making of his Top Ten Contemporary Jazz release “Roundtrip” & his upcoming projects to come very soon!! 

TERRILL:     And in the house, hey guys Urban Music Scene – make some room on the couch. Right next door Kirk Whalum, what’s happening brother? 

KIRK:            What’s happening? What’s happening? And the Urban Music Scene! Man I’m glad to be in the number! 

TERRILL:     Hey you know it man! Were Badd Brother, Badd!

KIRK:            What Muhammad say, “He’s a bad man.” 

TERRILL:     As they say in the jazz world, “That’s a bad cat.” How you doing? 

KIRK:            I’m doing great man. I’m blessed and really, really glad to be still doing this man and appreciate the love and respect man. 

TERRILL:     Hey man that’s always, all day always. God is blessing you man always it’s a definite blessing the world right now and in the jazz world and also in your career that span a great deal of time. You’re talking about three decades and 17 albums. 

KIRK:            How about that? 

TERRILL:     Have you looked back on that? 

KIRK:            Yes. It’s funny. That’s what this new CD is about. It’s about really taking a moment to smell the roses. And really savor. I’ll mention the fact that Grover Washington thought he would still be around. We certainly thought he would and not so much that – that was my motivation to do this. But it does factor in that nothing’s promised and I’ve been blessed to be able to do this now. Since 1984, in terms of an actual career. So it’s really great to take this opportunity, to take a ’round trip’ and take a trip back into the past and you know uh we do some of those things. 

TERRILL:     Right, right. And I tell you what, when you talk about going back in the past as compared to coming into the future. Is this what is I would consider the meaning of the title of your new CD Round Trip?   

KIRK:            Absolutely, it has affected a few different aspects of facets of that title. One, of course, is a trip to back where I first started out playing in the Houston club scene. I’m originally from Memphis, and by the time I got really serious, I was in college in Houston and playing with my own band there and the writing and arranging. So we started out with a song that I have never recorded, but a song I played. Many of my old Texas fans will remember this song from those days. It’s call “Courtney”. I know exactly how old it is. Its 29 years old because my daughter Courtney is 29. And from there we go on to “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby”- the first song I recorded on a national record which is Bob James 12. We did a new version of that with Earl Klugh helping me out and “Desperately,” another song from the old days. We did that to a few songs. Just go back and totally do new versions of those old songs and then we get into some new stuff. Go to the future and go right back to the past with afterthought. 

TERRILL:     Not to mention too, you brought in some players man. I mean, yo
u got Phillipe!
That’s a badd keyboard player man!
 

KIRK:            Yes. He’s a great keyboard player and even a greater arranger and producer. He’s someone I’ve known for a long time. I used to live in Paris, and during that time I was privileged to meet and work with Philippe. Of course he was working with Al Jarreau and David Sanborn, a lot of people. Chaka Khan, and we’ve been close friends since then.  

TERRILL:     And then you got Rich. That’s a cat who’s prevalent in the industry as well… 

KIRK:            Our record, “This is his time”. 

TERRILL:     Right, he’s doing it, man. He’s definitely out there, and it’s good to see that he is involved with your project. Tell us a little bit about the producer, James McMillan. 

KIRK:            James McMillan is a buddy of mine with whom I toured with in a band called “Everything But The Girl” and that’s a British band. Of course a lot of people knew their music. James and I were in the horn section with them some years ago. I recorded on one of their albums and ended up touring with them and met James. And we just hit it off right from the beginning. When I moved to Paris, he would come across the Channel and hang out with me at the house, at the apartment and we’ve produced stuff together and did a lot of great music. And so it was natural to call him back in on this. And by the way that’s another aspect of the title Round Trip. This project was done in Memphis, Los Angeles, London, Europe. I mean we kind of covered some bases, we got some frequent flyer miles out of this one.   

TERRILL:     Not to mention, you got some frequent visitation rights to your family involved too on this project. 

KIRK:            Yeah … 

TERRILL:     You got your crew, you got your crew and everything. 

KIRK:            Yes. How about that! Here’s the funny thing: There’s more down the pike man. I mean, I haven’t even gotten into my nephews – one is a great singer and the other one is a bad trombone player. But I got one of my nephews on here – I got Kenneth III, he’s been touring with P-Diddy and he’s studying in New York. He kind of debuts on this record and then my son Karl has been out there doing a lot. He’s been touring a lot with Stacy and Rico and Nicole C. Marlon and some others … 

TERRILL:     Definitely his contribution to your one of your projects is The Gospel Music According to Jazz. 

KIRK:            He’s not touring with me now. But I got him on this title track – as well as my brother Kevin, who of course is you know, is I hope to never go anywhere without him. And then my uncle ‘Peanuts’ man! We call him ‘Peanuts’ and he’s 79 years old man. He sounds like he’s 40, you know singing. He was the first real live saxophone player that I ever heard up close and personal and he was my benchmark for my whole career, to try to play like him. So I still have done it, so, so you know it’s great to have him on here.  

TERRILL:     This sounds like a great foundation and sounds like the album altogether has a lot of solid, solidity in terms of different types of covers. As stated, you have chosen. Getting contributions from your family, which is going to make this album a little more heartfelt I believe. 

KIRK:            Absolutely!! 

TERRILL:     You finally got this released. I also found interesting that you brought back a very popular R&B vocalist, songtress. I mean she’s like a golden wing in the sky – Miss Shanice Wilson!  

KIRK:            That’s right man! I called Shanice literally cold and I was like, ‘man this lady probably don’t know who I am’. I just said called her anyway because I was such a big fan of “I Love Your Smile.” 

TERRILL:     Me too, man. That was a hot track! 

KIRK:            Seriously! You could hear on that song that Shanice has something very unique and very different. She wasn’t just a teeny bopper – you can tell that she happened to be a teeny bopper when she got her career started. But she had the longevity built in to the sound of her voice. And so, I was like man I haven’t heard from her so I’m going to see if I can get her. She said “Oh no I’m a fan; I would love to do it.” 

TERRILL:     Oh man, she’s such a radiant lady man. 

KIRK:            And the song is beautiful! It’s called “Inside”. It’s written by my buddy James McMillan in England and it’s about beauty. It’s such an important message for young girls, especially young black girls and Latina girls. Don’t let the icon of beauty be something that’s not you. You’re beautiful, especially on the inside, it’s not about on the outside – it’s on the inside.   

TERRILL:     Oh wow. You know what, I’ll tell you what – when the listeners get a good taste of that track, I’m telling you it’s going to wet their palettes. It’s definitely a hot track as well.  And altogether, Kirk this project is hot! 

KIRK:            Man, I really appreciate it. You know how it is. You put it out there and just kind of hold your breath, you know. 

TERRILL:     Yes. There’s so many different types of music and how it gets classified is a different ball game too. But yours is something that just really goes over both genres. It could go in the Smooth Jazz, Jazz, Contemporary Jazz. But it can touch R&B as well. And hopefully the listeners out there and the fans will appreciate this one, because it’s definitely a very strong project.  

KIRK:            Thank you so much. 

TERRILL:     And definitely I am looking forward to the success of that and that’s just you anyway Kirk, you are a staple of success. 

KIRK:            Well brother, I really appreciate that. I grew up on rhythm and blues man – I’m from Memphis and you know the whole Stax Records legacy is something I internalized as a kid. And look at me now, I’m actually artist in residence at Stax. There’s of course the record company folded, you know but recently they just got all that back started and made a beautiful music museum called the Stax Museum of American and Soul music. I am the artist in residence at the academy, and man it’s just been so incredible to be involved in the music I grew up with. 

TERRILL:     Wow, it’s just amazing, a lot of your projects touched on the Rhythm & Blues. It’s just again, you’re a wholesome jazz artist, as I would say. Cuz you have the skills; I could go on and just be on this interview with you for hours. If I was to talk about these guys need to know your collaboration work with Bob James. Just in a few sentences man, how was it like to play with Bob James? 

KIRK:            Oh wow. See first of all Bob James discovered me. I was literally playing the Houston club scene and I got this call to open a concert for Bob James and I didn’t have any big expectations man. I done enough of that to know you can’t really … you know just do your thing man – if you are faithful in the small things and God will give you more to do and that’s exactly what happened. From there in 1984, I started touring with him and he got me signed to Columbia Records and you know really I’ve had a chance to watch him and he mentored me in a lot of areas you know as a producer and also an artist. So I definitely owe him a lot and I was made it a point to record on this new record a song that I very first song I recorded with him, a song I wrote called “Ruby, Ruby, Ruby.” I featured Earl Klugh on it, you know he was a very very good friend of Bob.  

TERRILL:     Absolutely. Are you still with me? 

KIRK:            Oh yeah, I’m here! 

TERRILL:     Ok, I thought you took a call there. It’s a beautiful thing you know you left over three decades, your involvement over the careers of so many players. Again that’s showcasing the new project of you coming full circle. You just made a statement, that’s a very profound one – it’s so much on the lines of you stating God has you doing so many things and let’s talk about that band The Gospel According to Jazz series. There’s a buzz out there you working on part three.  

KIRK:            That’s right. Chapters 1 and 2 were overwhelming successes and that of course ijs due to God’s hand on it and the fact that people are hungry for something like that, something that represents you know just that connection in a way that doesn’t beat them over the head. But just presents the truth in a way that people can receive it. So Chaper 3 is The Gospel According to Jazz – Chapter 3 is in the works. George Duke has already signed on, my brother Kenneth. I got some great participation on this one from a lot of Whalums, you know that haven’t been heard from yet. And as well man,  I just it’s something that is really really dear to me and we’re going to do it in D.C. – the church called Reed Temple and that’s going to be on the 13th of August, I’m sorry the 13th of October and that will be a live video recording and CD. So it’s definitely something that people that many write to us from Nigeria and Japan and South Africa and all over, asking when is Chapter 3 going to happen. So it’s going to be October 13th. 

TERRILL:     Oh wow, wow, okay. That’s going to be on the line brother. We’re looking forward to that. And why don’t you tell us a little bit about the special Sunday morning Gospel Hour that you’re doing and you’re sitting in with Marcus Miller. 

KIRK:            How about that.

 TERRILL:     That’s sweet man. 

KIRK:            Yes. What it is actually is the cruise that we just did. We did the North Sea Jazz Cruise and Marcus Miller was the host and he did an incredible job. And of course there was Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner and David Sanborn and on and on. It was amazing. But the hit of the whole thing as far as I’m concerned, was the Sunday morning Gospel Jazz show. It was really special. You know Marcus’ dad came up and played “Amazing Grace” on the piano. You know it was really amazing. And people really – um people are hungry to hear the truth. You know they’re hungry to be impacted by someone who you know promises to never forsake them. You know we’re in an age where people are just wishy-washy and I think that’s one that really got people. 

TERRILL:     That’s one thing about your music Kirk, your music is like I say before and I will reiterate in the interview. It is concrete, there is a foundation in every project that you have put out. Over the course of the years, excluding the Round Trip album that came out, is coming out that is. What was one of your most memorable favorite projects you put together? Excluding Round Trip. 

KIRK:            I think probably Into My Soul, that’s the CD we did in Memphis and being from there man that’s really um, it’s like in a sense of people who are from New Orleans, you know. There’s a special something that goes on there and there’s a special attachment, a connection with that place and the music of that place. And so Into My Soul was a CD that celebrated that and I was grateful to work with David Porter. I mean “I’m a Soul Man,” “Hold On I’m Coming” you know what I mean, that’s like you can’t even begin to trace his history. And so that was and so Into My Soul was probably the other CD that I hold up along side Round Trip as really really meaningful.

 
TERRILL:     Good, good. You know Round Trip was bad and in the Urban Music Scene, you guys out there looking at this interview trust me – watch the review, it’s hot, it’s going to be burning up your airwaves. But before I close with you Kirk. You going to be on tour? 

KIRK:            We are touring right now man. I’m with Gerald Albright, Jeff Golub and Tim Bowman. Guitars and Saxes touring and we’re having a ball. Today we play the Long Beach Jazz Festival a little bit later and you know we’re r
olling on from here. So definitely check out kirkwhalum.com for sure for October 13th come check us out. The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter 3 and yes, we’re rolling! I can’t keep up that well!
 

TERRILL:     God will give you the power to do so. And brother I’ve been privileged to have an interview with you today. Do I look forward to having a part two with you down the line? 

Kirk:               I hope so man, sometime very soon bro. 

Terrill:            Let’s plan one for that next project. 

Kirk:               You got it! 

Terrill:            Alright man, God bless you man. Thank you for coming to Urban Music Scene.com 

Kirk:               I’ll be back man. 

Terrill:            You got it, I’ll see you later.

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