Kirk Whalum

Into My Soul

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Despite featuring an organic mix of straightforward R&B, Into My Soul still finds alto saxophonist Kirk Whalum only threatening to make a smooth jazz masterpiece. On what is ostensibly his Memphis album, Whalum -- a Memphis native -- does evince a Stax-style soulfulness; unfortunately, he keeps the arrangements and his own playing so mild and light that nothing really ever sticks with you. Given that the album largely showcases a more natural, acoustic production style, it is disappointing that such tracks as the cover of the Isaac Hayes nugget "Hold On! I'm Comin'" are marred by predictably cheesy synthesizer backgrounds and unnecessary drum machine programming. Instead you only get a few standouts, including the title track, a funky midtempo ballad that recalls the simple elegance of Grover Washington, Jr. Similarly, the funky "Hoddamile (Hot or Mild)" gets by nicely with a catchy melody and guest spots by trumpeter Rick Braun and guitarist Norman Brown. If only the whole album were as good as the raw and soulful "That's All Right" -- featuring vocals by Kevin Whalum -- which turns the Arthur Crudup-penned Elvis classic into a raw Tony! Toni! Toné!-meets-Sam Cooke rave-up, Into My Soul might have been more than just pleasant.

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