September 11, 2019
A Journey Through Sound and Soul: An Interview with Kirk Whalum
We sit down with Grammy Award winning sax legend Kirk Whalum in the second episode of our ongoing Music & Artists series.
Renowned saxophonist Kirk Whalum, with his deep roots in Memphis, Tennessee, embodies a rich musical heritage that spans genres and generations. In a recent interview, Whalum delved into his musical upbringing, the profound influence of his family, and his journey through various musical landscapes.
The Essence of Memphis in Whalum’s Music
Whalum’s narrative is a testament to the vibrant musical scene of Memphis. He describes growing up in a city where music is in the air – from gospel to rock and roll. This diverse exposure shaped his eclectic style, making him a versatile artist who transcends musical boundaries.
The Band Experience: A Lesson in Collaboration
Whalum emphasizes the importance of being part of a band, highlighting the collaborative nature of music. He reflects on his high school dreams of joining bands like the Bar-Kays and Earth, Wind & Fire, and how these experiences shaped his understanding of music as a collective endeavor.
Sound Over Chops: Whalum’s Advice to Young Musicians
In a poignant piece of advice to aspiring musicians, Whalum stresses the importance of focusing on one’s sound. He shares wisdom from David Sanborn, emphasizing that sound is the musician’s voice, conveying their identity, culture, and experiences.
Memorable Moments: From Tragedy to Triumph
Whalum shares two unforgettable moments in his career: playing a tribute to astronaut and saxophonist Ron McNair, and performing in South Africa during the end of Apartheid. These experiences highlight the power of music to commemorate, heal, and unite.
The Rhythm Section: The Heartbeat of Music
When discussing what he looks for in a rhythm section, Whalum speaks of dependability and versatility. He values drummers who can maintain tempo and adapt to various styles, contributing to the dynamic and cohesive sound of a band.
The P. Mauriat Saxophone: A Perfect Match
Whalum describes his transition from playing the Kyle Wirth saxophone to discovering the P. Mauriat, a change that significantly impacted his sound. He praises the instrument for its ability to adapt to his style, offering a blend of robustness and subtlety.
The Montreux Jazz Festival: A Melting Pot of Talent
Reflecting on his performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Whalum highlights the spontaneous and collaborative spirit of the event. He reminisces about sharing the stage with legends like George Duke and Kenny Garrett, showcasing the magic that happens when great artists come together.
Music as a Dance: The Physicality of Performance
Whalum concludes by emphasizing the physicality of music. He encourages musicians to engage their entire body in their performance, to dance with the music, ensuring that their playing is not just technically proficient but also emotionally resonant.
The Universal Language of Music
Kirk Whalum’s journey through music is a reminder of the universal language of sound. His experiences, insights, and reflections offer a window into the soul of a musician who has not only witnessed history but has also played a significant role in shaping it with his saxophone.