It’s a Kirk Whalum Christmas


Kirk Whalum is in the holiday spirit.

(Photo: Mack Avenue)

Looking for a little new music for the holiday season? DownBeat has plenty, starting with saxophonist Kirk Whalum’s How Does Christmas Sound? on Mack Avenue Records.

On Whalum’s second set of holiday music, he doesn’t just head to the old standards; Whalum looks to this Christmas with a holiday spirit that is as complex as it is joyous.

“You can talk about the sights and the smells, but to me it’s always a sound that takes me to the true meaning of Christmas,” Whalum said. “Even in April, I will put on Nat ‘King’ Cole’s Christmas record and it brings me peace.”

Over the past decade, Whalum, a highly spiritual person, has celebrated the holiday season with his live A Gospel According to Jazz Christmas Tour. The pandemic put the annual event on pause.

“We had to sit out a Christmas,” Whalum said. “I realized during the pandemic that Christmas means more to me now than it ever did. Like my faith, Christmas is axiomatic to my life, and I have evolved spiritually in so many ways.”

The album is a bit of a family affair, with his brother Kevin Whalum singing. His nephew Kortland Whalum also sits in as a featured vocalist and son Kyle holds down the bass chair.

“My discography is always about family, and this record is no different,” Whalum said. “Whenever I record music, I’d be crazy not to use my son who plays with Kelly Clarkson, my nephew who is out doing Broadway shows and my other nephew who plays with Bruno Mars.” (Whalum’s nephew, trombonist Kameron Whalum, a frequent guest on his uncle’s projects, is so busy with Bruno Mars duties that he was unable to participate in How Does Christmas Sound?)

As for the music, the recording delivers a dozen holiday hits, including the title track, “All I Want For Christmas,” “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?,” “A Babe Is Born” and more.

Whalum’s new offering is one of many holiday recordings out now. Check out our entire Gift Guide from the December issue HERE. DB

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July 2022
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