Renowned for his soulful sound and charismatic stage presence, Kirk Whalum is a celebrated figure in the world of jazz and gospel music. Born on July 11, 1958, in Memphis, Tennessee, Whalum’s unique blend of musical styles has captivated audiences around the globe, solidifying his status as a leading saxophonist and recording artist.
Whalum’s passion for music was ignited at a young age, growing up in a musical family where he was exposed to a rich tapestry of sounds. His early inspiration came from the soulful hymns of the church, and this spiritual influence continues to resonate in his music.
After attending Melrose High School, Whalum decided to pursue music professionally, majoring in Music at Texas Southern University. His time in Houston was transformative, not only musically but also personally, as it was here that he met his wife, Ruby.
Whalum’s professional career took off in the mid-1980s when he began touring with the legendary singer and songwriter, Bob James. His tenure with James led to a solo recording contract with Columbia Records, where he released his debut album, “Floppy Disk”, which introduced his unique sound to a broader audience.
In the 1990s, Whalum’s distinct saxophone tone could be heard on the mega-hit “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. His solo on this track became one of the most recognizable saxophone performances in pop music history.
Throughout his career, Whalum has released more than 25 albums, covering a wide range of styles from jazz to gospel. His “Gospel According to Jazz” series is particularly noteworthy, as it showcases his ability to beautifully blend jazz improvisation with gospel melodies.
Whalum’s dedication to his craft has been recognized with numerous awards. He has received 12 Grammy nominations, and in 2011, he won the Grammy for Best Gospel Song for “It’s What I Do”, featuring Lalah Hathaway.
Apart from his successful recording career, Whalum has served as a music director and toured with some of the greatest artists of our time, including Barbra Streisand and Luther Vandross. Additionally, he is an active advocate for music education and frequently conducts masterclasses and workshops for aspiring musicians.
Page last updated 7/15/2023.