Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway is Kirk Whalum's second album in 2010. In March, he released The Gospel According to Jazz: Chapter III, his first recording in two years, with a star-studded lineup. Everything Is Everything, produced by veteran Matt Pierson, features 11 tunes closely associated with the late singer, songwriter, and pianist. Hathaway recorded ten of these himself; the other he wrote for Blood Stone. Whalum is joined by a stellar cast which includes John Stoddart on Fender Rhodes, Shedrick Mitchell on organ, guitarists Jef Lee Johnson and Larry Campbell, bassist Christian McBride, percussionist Bashiri Johnson, and drummer John Roberts. (Guest appearances by Rick Braun, Jeff Golub, and Robert Randolph round it out.) This is primarily an instrumental set, recorded in a polished but old-school, funky '70s soul-jazz style -- nearly CTI-like in its production approach, with some fine vocal performances sweetening the deal. Musiq Soulchild lends his mellifluous tenor to the slow-burning "We're Still Friends," and Hathaway's daughter Lalah graces the silky babymaker "You Had to Know." Whalum evokes his best Grover Washington, Jr. on the kick-off track "Giving Up," and the lyric influence of fellow Memphian David Fathead Newman is heard on "Someday We'll All Be Free," featuring a lovely, tastefully articulated string arrangement by Gil Goldstein. The recording of Leon Russell's "Song for You" is a real highlight here, as Whalum references Hathaway's vocal phrasing on his tenor. Goldstein's strings are up in the mix but aren't intrusive. "Valdez in the Country" digs deeper into Hathaway's original to bring the Latin polyrhythms to the fore, and Golub's guitar solo is a monster, adding grit to the interplay between the rhythm section and percussionists. "Je Vous Aime (I Love You)," one of two cuts here written by Hathaway with Leroy Hutson, features a female gospel chorus. Randolph's pedal steel on "Tryin' Times" adds some nasty to this funky number. "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" closes it with Stoddart taking an incidental lead vocal backed by a chorus as Braun and Randolph round out the core band. Andy Snitzer's programming (this is the only cut it appears on) is minimal, making it suitable for the dancefloor and remixing. McBride's electric bass is the driving force, and the chorus is chilling in its emotional reach. Whether intended or not, Whalum's range of musical creativity on Everything Is Everything: The Music of Donny Hathaway, while keeping it grounded in the singer's oeuvre, makes this the album by which the saxophonist will be judged from here on out.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek