Soulful, passionate, stirring…these are the words most often used to describe Kirk’s music. Forged from his Memphis, (TN) gospel roots and his 1980‘s initiation into the thriving Houston, TX nightclub scene, Kirk’s big, rich tenor sound is unmistakably his. The 80’s were highlighted by Kirk’s stepping out of his blossoming sideman role and forming his own band. It was there that Kirk ultimately developed both his “voice” and songwriting in the crucible of the local club scene––especially at a rooftop club called Cody’s. It was also in Houston where jazz pianist Bob James “discovered” him and brought him on tour, which led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Kirk’s first #1 album. As well, Kirk and Bob received a Grammy nomination for their collaboration album, Joined at the Hip. After moving to Los Angeles, Kirk became an in demand session player for top artists like, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and most notably, Whitney Houston, amongst many others. It’s his sax heard on the mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Kirk soon followed that career high point with his phenomenal hit album released on Warner Bros. Records, For You, perhaps the most successful of over 25 solo recordings to date; others include his eclectic Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2 and 3).
An ordained minister, Kirk has earned his Masters of Art in Religion. It’s in this spirit that he serves his community, frequently performing at nursing homes, schools and missions. There is also his daily fifteen minute podcast, Bible In Your Ear (BIYE), in which he invites you to listen along as he reads through the Bible in a year. In addition to music and ministry, Kirk has a passion to educate young, aspiring musicians and as such he currently serves as Chief Creative Officer of the STAX Music Academy and the STAX Museum of American Soul Music in his hometown of Memphis, TN.
Kirk is the recipient of numerous awards and acknowledgements for his musical excellence including three Dove Award nominations, an NAACP Image Award nomination and has won two Stellar Awards-Gospel music’s highest honor. An eleven time Grammy nominee, Kirk won his first Grammy award for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do”-featuring Lalah Hathaway) alongside life-long friend and gifted writer, Jerry Peters.
His latest release (on Mack Ave. Records) is perhaps his most ambitious to date. On Romance Language Kirk pays homage to the much revered 1963 ballads album, John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Kirk’s release features the brilliant and lush vocals of his brother Kevin. As the original recording is only six songs, Kirk rounds out this album with his romantic interpretations of some modern day ballads such as Brandy’s “Almost Doesn’t Count,” which features the dulcet voice of his 83 year old uncle, Peanuts Whalum.
In addition, Kirk is very proud that Romance Language is the first album produced in LiveAudio, a 3D listening experience for the JAMBOX wireless speaker.
In a career spanning decades, Kirk has a sound that is uniquely his; it is a sound that leaves an indelible imprint on the listener.
Kirk Whalum published with permission of Bettie Grace Miner.