Kirk Whalum – Romance Language

Kirk Whalum’s saxophone sound is one of the cornerstones of contemporary jazz. He’s collaborated with many artists and has made his mark in the worlds of gospel, jazz and R&B. I just learned that he is President/CEO of the STAX Music Academy and the STAX Museum of American Soul Music. For that alone, he’s ‘the man’ in my eyes.

For this, his 19th album as leader, he has teamed up with his brother Kevin – a vocalist with great subtlety and feeling – to create a tribute to the 1963 album “John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman”. The first six songs from “Romance Language” are re-takes of the 1963 record’s only six songs. OK, history lesson over, what do we have here to enjoy?

Irving Berlin’s ‘They Say it’s Wonderful’ glides in with Kevin Whalum’s dark brown voice and the smokiness of Kirk’s tenor horn. The balance is beautifully judged. This is the tenderest of ballads and it’s music that you can only write and play from the heart. ‘Dedicated to You’, with its sexy brass and flute intro, takes you deeper into that romantic mood. The sax solo really is timeless and would have sounded as good fifty years ago as it does now. Usually statements like that are made the other way around – but you get the idea… Just lovely.

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