Take Five With Kevin Whalum


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Meet Kevin Whalum:

Thanks for the love throughout my career, friends! I've felt it all. Through my solo work, my work with my brother, Kirk Whalum and so many others, I'll continue to seek new moments to capture for you. Bless you all.



Teachers and/or influences?

Teachers: Dr. Wendell P. Whalum; Dr. Uzee Brown, Jr.

Influences: Too many to count.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

...I heard a man at my dad's church in Memphis sing a solo. I was about six or seven. His name is Winston Merriweather, and my dad's church was called Olivet Baptist Church. To this day, I try to approach a song as joyfully and spontaneously as he did then.

Your sound and approach to music:

My sound is adult contemporary R&B with jazz overtones. My approach is to be honest and joyful on each tune.

Your teaching approach:

I teach "trust yourself" first. Most of my students want to learn how to scat, because I do a great deal of it in my live show. I could go deeper into this "trust" explanation, but it would take a looonnng time!

Your dream band:

My dream band would be Bernard Purdie or Vinnie Colaiuta on drums; MeShell Ndegeocello or Joel Smith on bass; Jonathan Dubose or Dean Brown on guitar; George Duke on keys; Kirk Whalum on tenor; Lenny Castro on percussion; Lynne Fiddmont, Kim Mont, Lo Carter and Lisa Vaughn on backing vocals.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

My best road experience would be performing our rendition of Maze's "Running Away" in front of Frankie Beverly and his band.

My worst was a club date I agreed to when I was just starting out back in the early '90s in Chicago. I agreed to working "off the door" on a Wednesday night, as opposed to having the club pay me. Well, needless to say, about five people showed up! I had to pay the guys out of my empty pockets!

Favorite venue:

My favorite venue now is Blues Alley in DC. Previously, my favorite venue was Caravan of Dreams in Ft. Worth, TX. Sadly, they closed it several years ago.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

My two favorite songs in my own discography are probably "I Love Her Just The Way I Am," and "Why?" The former is close to my heart, because of the fan response of a song that was so personal to my life. The latter, because I wrote it with George Duke with Lynne Fiddmont's voice in my head as my co-lead. It all worked out just as I imagined it would.

The first Jazz album I bought was:

Al Jarreau, Look To The Rainbow.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

Musical integrity and real effort to go deeper.

Did you know...

That I play bass.

CDs you are listening to now:

J Moss, V4: The Other Side;

Fred Hammond, God, Love, & Romance;

Eric B. & Rakim, Paid In Full;

Kirk Whalum, Romance Language;

George Duke, Deja Vu.

Desert Island picks:

Joe Cocker, You Are So Beautiful To Me;

The O'Jays, Cry Together;

Kirk Whalum, Big Ol' Shoes;

Sarah Vaughan, Lush Life;

Chuck Brown, LOVE.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

I would love it if we could stop using the word "smooth." It tends to conjure up nap time. I'm a jazz artist. It ain't necessarily smooth, though. I know many of the top cats in that genre personally. They agree with me. Let jazz be jazz.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

Take the cuffs off of what can be played on the radio. Play it all! Everything from the simple to the complex.

What is in the near future?

New CD by summer, 2013. Self-produced, self-written. A sonic departure for my listeners...

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

Unzipped fly!

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Take 6, "A Few More Miles To Go."

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?

Chuck Brown, "Chuck Baby!"

By Day:


If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

News anchor or an architect.

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