Read more reviews of Christmas CDs that have been released in 2001. Christmas reviews from previous years are also still available.
The Christmas Message
Kirk Whalum’s first Christmas project has all the hallmarks of his famed saxophone sound that have earned him raining accolades from nearly every corner of the music industry (see also his recent Hymns project).You were in heaven,
The Christmas Message is filled with fourteen tracks of music that honor Jesus Christ as our source for Christmas celebration. Each song is expertly teased into fresh takes of jazzed inspiration by this instrumental giant. Most are familiar, but there’s a couple of genius originals included too, as well as a number of lesser known classics.
Whalum collaborates with keyboardist/vocalist John Stoddart for much of the material; they are great allies, displaying consistent interplay and musical collaboration from cut to cut. To top that, frequent vocals from various sources make this more than an instrumental project.
Kirk Whalum's Message
Kirk Whalum’s own introduction to his album is found in the CD liner notes. He says a bundle, and is worth reprinting here:|
Dear Listener: Yes, there is an actual message to Christmas! Here's a hint; it's the difference between "X-Mas" and "Christmas." Though many folks celebrate the "Holiday Season" for many different reasons, this collection of songs unabashedly celebrates the Christ Child's birth and subsequent sacrificial death and resurrection.
The deepest need of humankind, the "sin problem," was resolved once and for all by this son of a Jewish carpenter. When once asked, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus responded, "This is the work; to believe on Him who was sent." The gift of eternal life is received not earned. The way that we receive it is by believing. It's that simple. The Christmas message is for anyone and everyone. Jew, Gentile, man, woman, boy and girl. It is a message of hope. Thus, it's worth celebrating!
Familiar fare awakens with confident saxophone entries and subtle jazz flourishes, with “Do You Hear”, “We Three Kings” and “O Holy Night” being cases in point.
But those lesser-known classics, that’s where this project shoots a projectory into musical orbit.
Stoddart tosses in some fabulous rhythmic vocal segments on the rocking “Cradle of Bethlehem”. On the Swedish “Blott En Dag”, Whalum begins with a saxophone solo before singer Cyndee Peters steps in with a richly textured vocal that Whalum and crew tenderly wrap in classically-tinted jazz. Incredible.
Guitar treasure Phil Keaggy contributes his gift on Whalum’s own composition, “The Christmas Message”. Then the exquisite melody and moving lyrics on Stoddart’s “Love From A Star” will touch many:
I was on earth,
When I needed you here,
You sent a baby so dear,
In a manger, on the hay,
You sent me love from a star Christmas day.
from “Love From A Star”
Kirk’s brother Kevin continues in his vocal collaboration (and makes us want a solo project from him even more), offering up rum-pum sounds on “Ghetto Drummer Boy”. Kyle Whalum Kirk’s son adds some soft hip-hop beatbox elements and also electric bass to this urbanish take on the popular contemporary classic.
In all, Kirk Whalum uses The Christmas Message to paint the season in masterstrokes that will be cherished in 2001 and way beyond.
Producers: Kirk Whalum, John Stoddart
album release date: October 23, 2001
reviewed by Stan North —
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