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The Christmas Message

Kirk Whalum

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Album Review

Kirk Whalum assembled a wide array of musical talent to perform 14 updated arrangements on this superior collection of hymns, Christmas carols, and holiday folk music. While preserving the style of polyphonic modality (as in the ancient forms of caroling), Whalum updates the traditional carol "Little Drummer Boy" to "Little 'Ghetto' Drummer Boy" by using the two-part doo wop-flavored harmony of Kyle Whalum and Kevin Whalum atop a very hip beatbox rhythm loop to symmetrically structure a new setting. Other outstanding arrangements include the opening track, "The First Noel," which features Whalum playing its improvised melody on tenor saxophone, the reggae backbeat added to "Do You Hear (What I Hear)," and the soulful lead vocals of John Stoddart on his original composition "Love from a Star." Whalum's original composition, "Christmas Message," is a sensitive duet that features the saxophonist's soprano voice beautifully accompanied by the contemporary Christian instrumentalist Phil Keaggy on acoustic guitar. This holiday collection is commensurate with Whalum's previous inspirational and spirited instrumental offering, Hymns in the Garden, in that it offers a wonderful visitation to classic songs with a very different approach and touch.

Biography

Born: 11 July 1958 in Memphis, TN

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

From his early days in Memphis where he played in his father's church choir, veteran saxophonist Kirk Whalum drew inspiration from the rich musical traditions of that city, including gospel, R&B, blues, and eventually jazz. He received a scholarship to attend music school at Texas Southern University, where he formed a band in 1979 and began playing shows on the local club circuit. When he opened for Bob James in Houston in 1984, the pianist was impressed with Whalum's expressive style, and invited...
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The Christmas Message, Kirk Whalum
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