Kirk Whalum

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About Kirk Whalum

Though Kirk Whalum is one of the most successful saxophonists to be categorized under the “smooth jazz” umbrella, his work touches on gospel, soul, pop, and beyond. Born in the musical hotbed of Memphis in 1958, Whalum came from a musical family, including jazz-musician uncles and a church choirmaster father. All of this influenced Whalum’s sound, as did the R&B and rock ’n’ roll coming out of his hometown. When he started doing session work in the early ’80s, he played on rock albums, Christian pop records, and more. But when he started playing with jazz keyboard giant Bob James, he really hit his groove. Whalum’s 1985 solo debut LP, Floppy Disc, showcased sweet, soulful tones framed by groove-conscious, electronic-oriented production; his recordings have also celebrated the gospel of his youth and the songs of Donny Hathaway. In 1992, Whalum became part of pop history by playing the sax solo on Whitney Houston’s blockbuster “I Will Always Love You,” but his home base remains smooth jazz, to which he brings his manifold influences for a rich, deeply rooted sound.

Memphis, TN, United States
July 11, 1958
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