Kevin Whalum

Until now, one of the best male voices in jazz has been limited to backup or guest roles on other artists' projects, notably those of Kirk Whalum, his saxophone-playing brother. But Kevin Whalum has now stepped out on his own, showing his potential with an intimate, warm and accessible solo project titled Timetable.

The project is 18-track mix of Gospel and jazz vocals, with an R&B twist at times. Whalum's pipes are as buttery as ever, and his songs (self-penned) are superb. While only a couple  CD of pieces express the Gospel message lyrically, every song is evidently infused with Whalum's God-honoring spirit, and has a scriptural reference attached.

Instrumental support on the project is true to the jazz form —piano, upright bass, drums, guitar, occasional trumpet and saxophone. Players such as Kirk Whalum on sax, JD Blair on drums, Michael Ripoll on guitar and Tyrone Dickerson on organ contribute, and several noted session vocalists bring backing vocals.

On the Gospel tip, all ears incline to "Let Him Talk To You", a duet with Tiffany Palmer. Whalum's vocal smoothness is refined and soulful amidst a soft groove, and Palmer's alto contrasts nicely. The song encourages each to be open to the personal words of Jesus, reminding us that 'our hearts respond to every word'.

"Jesus Loves Me" is uniquely assembled in that Whalum travels back in musical time (vocally), offering up verses in style contexts that range from 1862 to 1952 to 2002. "Groove Grow Move Know" is an inspirational ode that encourages practical lifestyle choices ("pray...& don't be scared to pray out loud", "learn...to be there for her")

Timetable is a certified triumph, and will surely be the first of many well-received albums from Kevin Whalum.

Producer: Kevin Whalum
album release date: January, 2003

— review by Stan North

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