Kirk Whalum

The Promise

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AllMusic Review by

Bob James gets the credit for discovering the passionate, soulful sax of Whalum in 1984. But you just know that a talent this size would have emerged on its own sooner or later. Between then and this release at the end of the decade, Whalum established himself as a major force on the contemporary scene, playing alongside the likes of James, Luther Vandross, Al Jarreau, and Larry Carlton, and releasing two powerful solo discs, 1985's Floppy Disk and 1988's And You Know That. But this third effort was his strongest outing to date, displaying a versatility which ranges from spiritual ("The Promise") to Brazilian (the tropical flavored "Desperately") to straight ahead rock & roll (the Larry Carlton tribute "LC's Back," which features the fancy licks of the guitarist himself). As producer, James gives his protégé's horn some fanciful grooves to work in and out of, most notably on the catchy, pop-like "Out a Hand." James also has a good time soloing on "Desperately" and the bass oriented "Don't Even Look." There are a lot of possible favorites in this collection, but the Carlton tribute is the one that hooks you from the very beginning. With this album, Whalum delivered in spades upon his early promise.

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