Whalum could do a cover CD of a phone book and it would sound
good. Fortunately, there is better material out
there for him to work his magic on. On his 18th CD,
and debut on the Rendezvous label, Whalum offers his interpretations
of Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds' love songs. The
Babyface Songbook is produced by Matt Pierson
and features Dave Koz, Rick Braun, John Stoddart, Norman
Brown, Chuck Loeb, and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
“Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” a wonderful, soulful
slow dance, opens the CD. You’ll be joining the “Shoop
Shoop” chorus before it’s over. “Can
We Talk” reunites BWB – Rick Braun, Kirk Whalum
and Norman Brown… all taking turns with the lead.
Truthfully, I really wasn’t looking forward to hearing
another cover of “I’ll Make Love To You,” but
it only took a few seconds to fall in love with Kirk’s
powerful interpretation, and now it’s one of my favorite
tracks. Beautifully done. Rick Braun joins Kirk
again on “For The Cool In You” along with John
Stoddart on Fender Rhodes. Very cool and funky. “Breathe
Again” is another track I wasn’t looking forward
to, but again, Whalum can make anything sound new and fresh.
With Kirk on soprano sax, this next track needs no words. Gentle,
heartfelt, and emotional, “When Can I See You Again” is
absolutely breathtaking. John Stoddart adds a very
nice piano accompaniment to this one. “Betcha
Never” features Chuck Loeb on acoustic guitar. Whalum
totally captures the melody as he “sings” this
one from the heart with his unmistakable tenor sax sound.
“Someone To Love”… This one is a real treat for me… an
emotionally powerful sax duet with a very sweet “acapella” ending
by two of my favorite sax players, Kirk Whalum and Dave Koz - Whalum on tenor
and Koz on soprano. This is a wonderful “dance” between
the two instruments. At times it will take your breath away.
“Not Gon’ Cry” is the title of the track, but Kirk certainly
makes his tenor sax cry on this bluesy, R&B cover. Whalum is joined
again by Norman Brown for “Whip Appeal.” The contrast between Brown’s
laid back guitar licks and Whalum’s soulful tenor sax lends a lot of
interest to this one. Babyface himself joins Kirk on “I Said I
Love You” for background vocals, but Whalum’s sax does the real “singing” here. This
is another sweet, gentle, instrumental slow-dance. Closing the collection is “Wey
U” with a cool bosa nova feel, featuring Gabriella Anders on vocals.
As Whalum writes in the liner notes, “Melody is powerful. Melody
played for the heart is both powerful and spiritual.” The
Babyface Songbook is indeed that.
- Elizabeth Ware