5.0 2
by Kirk Whalum

Round Trip is a progressive retrospective that includes reimaginings of some of Kirk Whalum's biggest radio hits (including the first single, a modern reworking of 1987's "The Wave"), unreleased compositions from the legendary saxophonist's early days in Houston, and new songs that hint at the potential for contemporary jazz to cross over into spoken-word,See more details below


Round Trip is a progressive retrospective that includes reimaginings of some of Kirk Whalum's biggest radio hits (including the first single, a modern reworking of 1987's "The Wave"), unreleased compositions from the legendary saxophonist's early days in Houston, and new songs that hint at the potential for contemporary jazz to cross over into spoken-word, hip-hop, and rap music.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Thom Jurek
Contemporary jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum decided to take a little trip back in time on Roundtrip, back to the Memphis club scene that nurtured him early on, and to record some of his earliest compositions -- and ones written expressly for him -- with fresh ears as well as some new ones. Recording in four different places from Memphis to Los Angeles to New York to England, Whalum asked some old pals to pop in, like Earl Klugh, Jeff Golub, Gerald Albright, and Philippe Saisse, as well as some of his stalwart rocksteady bandmates such as Rex Rideout, drummer Michael White, bassist Melvin Davis, guitarist Mark Jaimes, and trumpeter James McMillan. There are a few other surprises as well, such as the appearance of Kim Fields on "In a Whisper," Shanice on "Inside," and sons Kyle, Hugh, and Kevin making appearances as well. Issued on his own Rendezvous Music imprint, this is Whalum at his most relaxed and celebratory. That said, Roundtrip has no less polish than anything recorded over his nearly 30-year career, and the label was his idea. It's a deeply personal offering that is celebratory in nature rather than merely reflective. The pairing with Klugh on "Ruby Ruby Ruby" is on the money. The keen melodic sensibilities both men possess complement one another perfectly, and the mix is skeletal enough to let Klugh's gorgeous guitar playing stand out. Whalum's tenor playing and the light, Latin-kissed composition are sparse and in the pocket. The reading of Nat Adderley, Jr.'s "The Wave" (the original is from 1988's And You Know That LP on Columbia) doesn't work quite so well in that Saisse does all the keyboards and programming and Whalum just blows over the top. The problem is that the synthetic handclaps add nothing; in fact, they detract from what otherwise might have been a nice funkier version of the tune. "Big 'Ol Shoes," which immediately follows, however, gets right down to it. Co-written by Whalum and Rideout, it's funky in all the right places, with one of those transcendent choruses that Whalum slips into his own tunes so often. The Grover Washington, Jr./Creed Taylor/Kudu feel is all over this one, with some killer keyboard work from Rideout and tasty guitars by Darrell Crooks. The vocal performance by Shanice on "Inside" is a beautiful urban soul and nearly gospel performance, and Whalum lets his vocalist get to it without getting in her way. Producer James McMillan (who co-wrote the cut) keeps his star back in the mix until it's time for him to blow a solo. Kim Fields speaks her track, and it works seamlessly. Rideout, who co-wrote the cut, produces it and takes the same approach with Whalum, though the saxophonist plays more fills, allowing his in-the-pocket sense of lyric improvisation to underscore the vocalist's lines. "Back in the Day" is a slick but fruitful hip-hop track with rapper Caleb tha Bridge and Albright on alto. This is positive hip-hop, with plenty of soul casting a reflective and nostalgic look at the past. Whalum and John Stoddart act as a backing chorus. It's innocent but not cloying, the groove is solid, and the saxophonists playfully entwine around one another and do call and response, ending up playing harmony in the solo break. The chorus has "single" written all over it -- if only the square urban and smooth jazz radio programmers would get out of their rut and test it on an actual audience. The set ends with another early Whalum composition in "Afterthought" from his debut album, Floppy Disk, in 1985. The lithe groove shimmers and swirls as White's backbeat kicks the tune just enough in contrast to the deep bassline of Alex Al and the vibes-like percussion of Kevin Ricard; Rideout's keyboards paint Whalum's backdrop brightly and he blows the tune out of memory, from that charmed place of having the gratitude and sheer lyric talent needed to look back. It's not hollow nostalgia here, but rather the quintessential taste to revisit this tune with so much soul over two decades later and play it like he means it -- only there's wisdom here, too: the tune means something a little different now, and his blowing near the cut's end is full of deep swelling emotion and smoking chops he didn't have in 1985. Anybody could play his old tunes, or replay them, or re-record a greatest-hits album, but Whalum didn't do that; he made something new and beautiful out of his past that points to an even brighter, more aesthetically satisfying future now that he -- instead of another record company -- controls it. Highly recommended.

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Kirk Whalum   Primary Artist,Soprano Saxophone,Tenor Saxophone,Background Vocals
Gerald Albright   Alto Saxophone
Earl Klugh   Guitar
Jeff Golub   Guitar
Chris Carter   Organ
Simon Phillips   Drums
Shanice Wilson   Vocals
Alex Al   Bass,Bass Guitar
Julian Crampton   Bass,Bass Guitar
Darrell Crooks   Guitar
Melvin Davis   Bass,Bass Guitar
Martin Ditcham   Percussion
James McMillan   Piano,Trumpet,Flugelhorn,fender rhodes
Kevin Ricard   Percussion
Rex Rideout   Keyboards
Philippe Saisse   Keyboards
Michael White   Drums
Kevin Whalum   Vocals
John Stoddart   Keyboards,Background Vocals
Garry Goin   Guitar
Mark Jaimes   Bass,Guitar,Bass Guitar
Kyle Whalum   Bass,Bass Guitar
Kim "Blondielocks" Fields   Spoken Word
Priscilla Jones-Campbell   Background Vocals
Hugh Peanuts Whalum   Vocals
Caleb tha Bridge   Vocals,Rap
Kenneth Whalum   Tenor Saxophone
Caleb tha Bridge   Rap
Peter Murray   Piano,fender rhodes
Ekpe Abioto   Percussion
Elijah "DD" Holt   Drums

Technical Credits

Ron Boustead   Mastering
Ray Bardani   Engineer
Hyman Katz   Executive Producer
James McMillan   Arranger,Programming,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Dennis Moody   Engineer
David Rideau   Engineer
Rex Rideout   Programming,Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Philippe Saisse   Arranger,Programming,Producer,Audio Production
Kirk Whalum   Producer,Liner Notes,Audio Production
Alex Lowe   Engineer
Greg Ross   Art Direction
Michael Wilson   Cover Photo
Frank Cody   Executive Producer
Garry Goin   Producer,Engineer,Audio Production
Dave Kox   Executive Producer
Jared Bryans   Engineer

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