This year's MOJA Festival kicks off its jazz series with "An Evening of Jazz Under the Stars With Kirk Whalum" on Saturday evening at the Cistern. Local jazz combo The Quentin Baxter Trio and hip-hop/soul violinist Daniel Davis share the bill.
A Memphis-born, Houston-raised musician, Whalum is a skillful jazz/soul saxophonist, acclaimed for recording and performing with Nancy Wilson, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, and many others.
His latest album, Roundup, issued on his Rendezvous imprint, is a retrospective effort, touching on his early experiences as a hard-working musician in the Memphis and Houston club scenes. His earliest colleagues included keyboardists Nat Adderley, Jr. and Bob James.
"Houston was such a cool music town in the early '80s," Whalum says. "There were so many live music venues then. Everybody came through Houston. I was like a sponge, just sitting there with these giants and absorbing everything they threw my way."
Guest players on Whalum's new album include Earl Klugh, Jeff Golub, Gerald Albright, and Philippe Saisse, as well as some of his usual bandmates. Whalum's family joined the jam sessions, too.
"I was inspired to do a project that celebrates my career in the business," he says of Roundtrip. "The title track is literally a Whalum party. There's my son Kyle, my nephew Kenneth, two other nephews, Cameron and Kortland ... and I have my brother Kevin Whalum and my uncle Peanuts Whalum, who's 79, performing with me, too. The song celebrates that.
"The reason I decided now to do this record as a sort of retrospective started out with the desire to honor my commitment to myself," he adds. "I wanted to tell a little bit of my story — not with words, but musically." —T. Ballard Lesemann
MOJA presents An Evening of Jazz Under the Stars With Kirk Whalum with The Quentin Baxter Trio and Daniel Davis on Sat. Sept. 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cistern (66 George St., 843-722-2764). Admission is $25. Check www.mojafestival.com and www.kirkwhalum.com for more.