KIRK WHALUM, ROMANCE LANGUAGE

The stylish jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum consistently hits that crossover sweet spot with his buttery tone and lyrical phrasing that finds him at home in multiple places, be it smooth jazz, R&B, gospel or straight-ahead jazz. Like his 2011 tribute to Donny Hathaway, “Romance Language” dips into familiar territory. In collaboration with his brother, vocalist Kevin Whalum, they re-imagine the classic 1963 album, “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman,” a desert-island disc of tenor sax/vocal bliss if ever there was one. That’s a risky proposition, but Whalum’s devotion to the original’s emotional core is evident throughout “Language.” Recorded mostly “live” in Nashville with his touring band, Whalum and co-producer/pianist John Stoddard update all six songs that were on the original and places them squarely in the present day. Turns out that these pitch-perfect pop/jazz confections have an elegance all their own with instrumentation that’s as smooth as Kevin Whalum’s honeyed pipes. Whalum rounds out the recording with four superbly soulful tunes associated with Brandy, Lewis and Jam, Eric Benet and Joe, and while they have their own merits, those first six tracks deserve their own playlist. (10 tracks; 55:10 minutes)

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JAZZ IN SPACE: KIRK WHALUM, ROMANCE LANGUAGE

Friday, February 24, 2012

KIRK WHALUM, ROMANCE LANGUAGE

The stylish jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum consistently hits that crossover sweet spot with his buttery tone and lyrical phrasing that finds him at home in multiple places, be it smooth jazz, R&B, gospel or straight-ahead jazz. Like his 2011 tribute to Donny Hathaway, “Romance Language” dips into familiar territory. In collaboration with his brother, vocalist Kevin Whalum, they re-imagine the classic 1963 album, “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman,” a desert-island disc of tenor sax/vocal bliss if ever there was one. That’s a risky proposition, but Whalum’s devotion to the original’s emotional core is evident throughout “Language.” Recorded mostly “live” in Nashville with his touring band, Whalum and co-producer/pianist John Stoddard update all six songs that were on the original and places them squarely in the present day. Turns out that these pitch-perfect pop/jazz confections have an elegance all their own with instrumentation that’s as smooth as Kevin Whalum’s honeyed pipes. Whalum rounds out the recording with four superbly soulful tunes associated with Brandy, Lewis and Jam, Eric Benet and Joe, and while they have their own merits, those first six tracks deserve their own playlist. (10 tracks; 55:10 minutes)

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