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Kirk Whalum has divine time recreating Coltrane

for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

Kirk Whalum may not be completely fearless, but the guy has guts.

The Memphis saxophonist's latest album, "Romance Language, is a recreation of the John Coltrane-Johnny Hartman collaboration from 1963, with Whalum's brother Kevin singing. It's intended as a tribute and treats the material with reverence, but Whalum, 54, says he felt twinges of apprehension as he was doing it.

"From the beginning I thought, 'This is kind of risky and is probably going to be a little controversial," he notes, "but I'm glad it was. You've got to believe in it. You have to really approach a project like this from a standpoint of both trepidation and confidence -- the confidence being that this is something you really feel and you feel like you should do.

"And I think in general people hear it and feel the love in this music and feel the respect we have for the original record and those guys."

Whalum, meanwhile, is now contemplating what to do next. He says that he's "due for another gospel record," joining three "Gospel According to Jazz" releases and other spiritually minded albums such as 2001's "Hymns in the Garden." He's already been "writing for that project" and recently finished a song featuring his flute playing, which he says he's been doing more of recently.

"You know, Coltrane is certainly a great example of that translation of the divine and the supernatural, sonically, into something that strikes you in a certain way," Whalum explains. "If you go back and study 'Trane and others who were reaching out, endeavoring to channel God's power or seeking at least to know God better and use that, there's a lot to find.

"It's a real theme in what we do and something that's always worth returning. I always discover something new or learn something new when I do."

Kirk Whalum performs at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at the 17th Annual Jazz on the River festival in Elizabeth Park in Trenton. The free festival runs Saturday and Sunday and also includes performances by Najee, Pieces Of a Dream, Dave McMurray, Alexander Zonjic and others. Call 734-261-1990 or visit www.zonjic.com.

Web Site: www.zonjic.com

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