American Kirk Whalum in Kampala for Rotary jazz

Thursday March 7 2019

American jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum

American jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum. PHOTO | COURTESY 

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American jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum is back in Kampala and is the headline act at this year's Rotary Uganda Charity Concert.

The event will be held on March 7 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

Proceeds from the concert, dubbed ‘Kirk Whalum Live’, will go towards procurement of equipment at the Rotary Blood Bank at Mengo Hospital.

"It is a joy for me to participate in charitable causes such as this. Being healthy, with the exception of the normal aches and pains of being 60!, and having my vision and hearing, is something for which I thank God daily," Whalum told The EastAfrican.

Born in 1958 in Memphis, Tennessee, Whalum grew up listening to Memphis Gospel, which has influenced his music style.

"Memphis has always been a mecca for music — especially black music, the blues, jazz and spirituals. I feel privileged to have had this music wafting over the airwaves in Memphis on the first black radio station — WDIA," he said.


He began his professional music career in the Houston, Texas nightclub scene with his trademark rich tenor sound in the 1980’s.

Whalum later teamed up with legendary jazz pianist Bob James, a collaboration that led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Whalum’s first album.

The duo also received a Grammy nomination for their album, Joined at the Hip.

Whalum later moved to Los Angeles where he leveraged his saxo-jazz-funk style playing for Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones and Whitney Houston. He toured with Whitney for more than seven years and soloed in her hit single I Will Always Love You.

He has more than 25 solo recordings including his hit album For You and the eclectic Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Whalum has received three Dove Award nominations, an NAACP Image Award nomination and has won two Stellar Awards.

An eleven time Grammy nominee, Whalum won his first Grammy award in 2011 for Best Gospel Song It’s What I Do featuring Lalah Hathaway, alongside lifelong friend and gifted writer, Jerry Peters.

He is an ordained minister and frequently performs at nursing homes and schools.

"Music is capable of entering into a person’s soul without the person 'giving permission',” he says.

He also serves as the creative advisor at the STAX Music Academy and the STAX Museum of American Soul Music in his hometown of Memphis.

On retirement, Whalum said: "musicians normally don’t retire per se. We just find other ways to participate! Teaching is one of my favourite things. And this is something I can do until I draw my last breath."

Together with his band, Whalum says he will "perform songs from several of my previous albums, as well as a song or two from an upcoming CD and documentary — featuring collaborations with 16 artistes from 8 countries — entitled Humanité! We’ll for sure get into some of my Gospel According To Jazz series as well."

Whalum’s first performed in Uganda in 2015 at the eighth edition of the Nile Gold Jazz Safari.

Rotary Uganda is looking to raise $500,000 for the blood bank project.

Tickets are going for Ush200,000 ($54) and a table for ten at Ush5 million ($1,354).