Kirk Whalum – The Gospel According To Jazz: Chapter III
Eight-time Grammy nominated jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum will release the long-awaited third installment in his popular genre-bridging gospel jazz series with a special package and unique online marketing campaign. The star-studded live celebration The Gospel According To Jazz: Chapter III will be available March 16, 2010, in both a two-disc CD package and a special DVD shot in hi-definition video via Whalum’s label Top Drawer Records and distributor Mack Avenue Records.The project features the gospel-targeted single “He’s Been Just That Good,”featuring vocalist Lalah Hathaway.
The Gospel According To Jazz is the brainchild of Whalum, whose dedication to his musical craft and his Christian beliefs came together to launch the live concert celebrations with the first GATJ release in 1998. A second edition, The Gospel According To Jazz II, was recorded in Los Angeles and released in 2002. The project was honored with a gospel Stellar Award for Instrumental CD of the Year and garnered a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.
The long-awaited Chapter III in the series – recorded live in 2007 at the Reid Temple AME church in Glenn Dale, Maryland – is a joyous concert of praise and worship,where Whalum takes listeners on a journey from spirituals through New Orleans jazz through modern jazz, R&B, hip-hop, reggae, blues, and gospel. “It’s kind of a mini journey through the evolution of jazz to an extent,” says Whalum. “It documents the fact that gospel is not a recent collaborator with jazz. They started out together.”
Unique to the concept of The Gospel According To Jazz is the fact that it brings jazz fans, gospel fans, and R&B fans together with those who are dedicated to Christ, and meets the listeners where they are spiritually. Including a DVD shot by noted filmmaker Jim Hanon in hi-def — the listener and the DVD viewer can truly witness the profound connections made between the audience and the musicians,between the musicians themselves, and between all present and the Holy Spirit.
“It’s a vertical and horizontal interaction,” Whalum explains, “where you see these musicians playing and expressing themselves in their adoration and wonder for the Invisible One. And when the camera pans over,across the shoulder of the artist, you focus on the audience members who are responding and taking part, that’s the horizontal aspect, resonating with each other in their own questions and struggles and affirmations of faith and appreciation of music. Then there is a vertical dimension that separates this from most just regular other jazz shows. It’s transcendent.”
The Gospel According To Jazz III was created through the extraordinary skills of a special lineup of musical artists. In addition to Whalum, the celebration features jazz keyboardist George Duke, vocalist Lalah Hathaway,guitarist Doc Powell, vocalist Kevin Whalum, keyboardist/vocalist John Stoddart, percussionist Lenny Castro, and others. Further, Whalum celebrates family as well as faith by engaging some other highly talented relatives. In addition to his brother Kevin, the set features his uncle, singer and saxophonist Hugh “Peanuts” Whalum; his nephew, saxophonist Kenneth Whalum III; his son, bassist Kyle Whalum; his nephew, vocalist Kortland Whalum; and his cousin, hip-hop artist Caleb Tha Bridge.
Whalum starts the musical journey alone on his horn,performing the gospel call-and-response unique to the African American experience in America. He is then joined by his 27-year-old nephew and his81-year-old uncle, both on saxophones, and a shuffling New Orleans rhythm on the piece “Fit To Battle,” which raises the rafters. “It’s a three-generational presentation of tenor saxophone,” Whalum says. “My uncle was my inspiration,and I was my nephew’s inspiration. So now we walk out and I add drums and percussion, they’re playing this New Orleans second line groove, so we’re moving up the Mississippi River just as jazz did. It’s just raucous, just sax and drums and on and on.”
The inspirational journey continues with the Latin jazz flight “Ananias & Sapphira”; followed by Whalum’s affectionate instrumental tribute to his late father on “Rev.” And, in the GATJ tradition of rededicating pop and R&B songs to the Lord,George Duke performs a heavenly piano meditation on the pop classic “Because You Loved Me,” and Lalah Hathaway and Kevin Whalum transform the Luther Vandross favorite “Make Me A Believer” into a declaration of faith. Hathaway then lends her smokey voice to the original gospel anthem “He’s Been Just That Good.”
The celebration continues on Disc II with the reggae tinged tribute to the Motherland title “Africa Jesus Africa,” followed by a version of the Stylistics tune “You Are Everything” with jazz and gospel guitarist Doc Powell. Other highlights: Peanuts Whalum’s elegant vocal version of the Charlie Chaplin classic “Smile.” Miss Hathaway also returns to sing Kirk’s original anthem “It’s What I Do,” followed by an inspired take on the blues standard “The Thrill Is Gone.” And as he did with “I Wanna Ta-Ta Ya Jesus” on the last chapter of GATJ, Kevin Whalum alters the Frankie Beverly & Maze tune “Running Away” into a call for accepting Jesus.
In addition, the CD package includes a bonus track version of “You Are Everything” featuring Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife Serita Jakes.