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Kirk Whalum

  • Saxophonist and songwriter
  • Played on Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and with Luther Vandross, Babyface, Al Green, and more
  • Grammy Award winner

From an early age, when he played in his father's church choir, Kirk Whalum drew inspiration from the rich musical traditions of gospel, R&B, blues, and eventually jazz. Whalum opened for Bob James in 1984 and impressed him so much that he invited Whalum to play on his album 12. The following year, Whalum signed with Columbia Records and released his first solo album.

The early '90s brought two more Columbia albums, bringing Whalum increasing commercial attention. A duet with James titled "Joined at the Hip" took Whalum's career to a new level with his first Grammy nomination.

The '90s also brought Whalum amazingly diverse session and touring jobs with artists such as Whitney Houston, Babyface, Take 6, Bebe & Cece Winans, Barbra Streisand, Quincy Jones, Al Green, and Luther Vandross. He worked on a number of film scores, including The Prince of Tides, Boyz in the Hood, Grand Canyon, and Cousins. From The Bodyguard movie soundtrack, Whitney Houston's hit song "I Will Always Love You" featured a sax solo by Whalum.

His 1998 release, For You, spent nearly two years at the top of Billboard's Contemporary Jazz chart and yielded four Top Ten NAC hits. His self-produced album, Hymns in the Garden, earned a second Grammy nomination. His 2007 release, Roundtrip, garnered him an eighth Grammy nomination in 2008.

Whalum continues to release albums and be active in the music community. In 2015, it was announced he would be joining the faculty of Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee.


Inducted to the Music City Walk of Fame on April 20, 2008.