Kirk Whalum

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Kirk Whalum
Born (1958-07-11) July 11, 1958 (age 58)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Smooth jazz, Pop, R&B, Gospel
Occupation(s) Musician, Songwriter
Instruments Tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute
Years active 1985 — present
Labels Rendezvous, Mosaic Contemporary, Warner Bros., Sony, Columbia
Associated acts Jonathan Butler, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Babyface, Bob James, Donny Hathaway, Lalah Hathaway

Kirk Whalum (born July 11, 1958) is an American smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter. He toured with Whitney Houston for more than seven years and soloed in her single "I Will Always Love You", the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. He was also featured on many Luther Vandross albums, most often playing on the singer's covers of older pop and R&B standards like "Anyone Who Had a Heart", "I (Who Have Nothing)" and "Love Won't Let Me Wait".

Whalum has recorded a series of well received solo albums and film soundtracks, with music ranging from pop to R&B to smooth jazz. Kirk’s musical accomplishments have brought him a total of 12 Grammy nominations. He won his first Grammy award in 2011 for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do”, featuring Lalah Hathaway) alongside lifelong friend and gifted writer, Jerry Peters.


Whalum performing in a September, 2007 music festival in Nashville.

Kirk Whalum was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He attended Melrose High School and Texas Southern University where he was a member of the World Famous Ocean of Soul Marching Band. In addition to singing in his father's church choir, Whalum learned to love music from his grandmother, Thelma Twigg Whalum, a piano teacher, and two uncles, Wendell Whalum and Hugh "Peanuts" Whalum, who performed with jazz bands around the country. He told John H. Johnson's magazine Ebony Man in a 1994 profile, "The music I like to play and write encompasses the four elements I grew up with: Memphis R&B, gospel, rock, and jazz. The emphasis, though, is on melody, period."[1]

In 1986, he performed at Jean Michel Jarre's giant concerts Rendez-Vous Houston and Rendez-Vous Lyon. At each concert, he performed the track "Last Rendez-Vous", also known as "Ron's Piece", in place of Jarre and Whalum's mutual friend, saxophonist and astronaut Ron McNair, who died in the Challenger disaster.

Whalum has worked on a number of film scores, including those for The Prince of Tides, Boyz n the Hood, The Bodyguard, Grand Canyon, and Cousins (film).

In 2005 Whalum recorded the Babyface Songbook (2005) with R&B icon Babyface's best songs of the past 15 years, including "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)", "I'll Make Love to You", "When Can I See You", and others. Joining in the intimate and stylish proceedings are other smooth jazz notables, including trumpeter Rick Braun, soprano saxophone player Dave Koz, and guitarists Norman Brown and Chuck Loeb among others. Whalum also contributed to the 2008 documentary film Miss HIV.

On June 20, 2014, Whalum was the inaugural Jazz Legend honoree of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee.[citation needed] In September 2015, it was announced that Whalum would be joining the faculty of Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee.[2]



  • Floppy Disk (1985)
  • And You Know That (1988)
  • The Promise (1989)
  • "Mad About the Wolf" from Simply Mad About the Mouse (1991)
  • Caché (1993)
  • In This Life (1995)
  • Joined at the Hip w/ Bob James (1996)
  • Colors (1997)
  • Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter 1 (1998)
  • For You (1998)
  • Unconditional (2000)
  • Hymns in the Garden (2001)
  • The Christmas Message (2001)
  • Groovin w/ BWB (Braun, Whalum, Brown) (2002)
  • The Best of Kirk Whalum (2002)
  • Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter 2 (2002)
  • Into My Soul (2003)
  • Kirk Whalum Performs the Babyface Songbook (2005)
  • Ultimate Kirk Whalum (2007)
  • Roundtrip (2007)
  • Promises Made: The Millennium Promise Jazz Project (2008)
  • Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway (2010)
  • The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter III" (2010)
  • Romance Language (2011)
  • Human Nature" w/ BWB (Braun, Whalum, Brown) (2013)
  • The Gospel According to Jazz Chapter IV" (2014)


  • Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2013 (2014)


  1. ^ Ebony Man, April 1994, p. 10.
  2. ^ "Kirk Whalum to join Visible Music College". Retrieved 2015-09-19. 

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