If you take delight in jazz, and R&B, then you will delight in this latest work of genius. Kirk Whalum’s musical talent has earned him seven Grammy nominations throughout his career. Whalum’s unparalleled creativity combined with the ageless melodies of Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is a brilliant arrangement. "Kirk Whalum performs the Babyface Songbook" is an album that will endure the test of time.
As Whalum stated in his press release, "a really cool thing about the Babyface Songbook is this is the first time that Babyface as a songwriter has been elevated to this level. I don’t pretend to be the one elevating him, but our treatment of him has that kind of integrity to it, that kind of dignity." This album is more than a mere collection of covers Whalum along with a few of his friends, give these songs new vivacity. What Whalum states that he has done on this project is, "reduced these songs to their essential elements, revealing their beauty from a distinctly different vantage point." Whalum has done this in order to move the attention away from the lyrics to showcase the melodies. Whalum creates a new sound for these songs while at the same time maintaining the integrity of the original compositions.
The album opens with the smooth track "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)." Many of us will remember this song from the feature film, "Waiting to Exhale." This is the ideal segue into the second track, "Can We Talk", featuring Rick Braun playing the flugelhorn. This track is suave, and melodic. Track three, "I’ll Make Love to You," was originally sung by the Philadelphia born and raised R&B group, Boys II Men. It is beautifully showcased by Whalum’s instinctive ability to interpret emotion through his saxophone.
Rick Braun lends his melancholy bluesy trumpet tone to the fourth track "For the Cool in You." "Breathe Again" (sung originally by Toni Braxton) is a stunning new rendition with vocals by John Stoddart. The more you listen to this album, it quickly becomes evident that this will be an album heavily rotated in your collection. "When Can I See You" starts off with John Stoddart on piano. Then, Whalum begins to play his saxophone with a tone exclusive to him alone.
"Betcha Never," "Someone To Love," "Not Gon’ Cry," Whip Appeal," "I Said I Love You" and "Wey U" are the remaining tracks. Each track is very unique and conveys an intensity of emotion. Dave Koz on the eighth track, "Someone To Love," originally sung by Jon B. and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds is a track that will lull you into a state of reverie. "Wey U" is a flawless way to end this mellifluous journey.
This is an album that deserves the critical acclaim that it has garnered. Whether you are spending a quiet evening at home or cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway this album will lift your spirits as you unwind to the vibe. Enjoy!