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Kirk Whalum presentsThe 6th AnnualA Gospel According to Jazz Christmas

Kirk Whalum with Jonathan Butler,
and Special Guests John Stoddart, Sheléa and Kevin Whalum

Kirk Whalum is an American smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter. He toured with Whitney Houston for more than seven years and soloed in her single “I Will Always Love You,” the best-selling single by a female artist in music history. He was also featured on many Luther Vandross albums, most often playing on the singer’s covers of older pop and R&B standards like “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait.”

Whalum has recorded a series of well received solo albums and film soundtracks, with music ranging from pop to R&B to smooth jazz. Kirk’s musical accomplishments have brought him a total of 12 Grammy nominations. He won his first Grammy award in 2011 for Best Gospel Song (“It’s What I Do,” featuring Lalah Hathaway) alongside lifelong friend and writer Jerry Peters.

Jonathan Butler  His music is often classified as R&Bjazz fusion, or worship music. Born and raised in Athlone, Cape TownSouth Africa during Apartheid, Butler started singing and playing acoustic guitar as a child. Racial segregation and poverty during Apartheid has been the subject of many of his records. His first single was the first by a black artist played by white radio stations in the racially segregated South Africa and earned a Sarie Award, South Africa’s equivalent to the Grammy Awards.

He began touring at the age of seven when he joined a traveling stage show, and was later signed up to perform on a string of hit recordings, turning him into a local teen idol. In 1975, his cover of “Please Stay” by The Drifters reached number 2 in South Africa. The same year, his cover of “I Love How You Love Me” by The Paris Sisters reached number 4. “I’ll Be Home” reached number 16 in 1976.

Sheléa‘s musical mastery makes her one of the most exhilarating up-and-coming artists today. While donning multiple hats of vocalist, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and producer, Sheléa evokes the sultry energy of Whitney Houston and the piano chops and writing prowess of Alicia Keys. Sheléa’s debut album, Love Fell On Me, is a return to true artistry, blending traditional pop, jazz, R&B, and soul and marking an exciting revival of singing and songwriting in a music scene that is laced with auto-tune and beat-driven numbers that read more like chants than songs.

When Stevie Wonder was asked to sing for the President and Michelle Obama at the White House in May 2012, honoring composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David with the Gershwin Prize, he felt it was a perfect opportunity to showcase Sheléa’s ingenuity. He suggested she be added to the program. With that, Sheléa went on to bring down the house with her rendition of “Anyone Who Had a Heart” featuring Arturo Sandoval on trumpet.

Sheléa’s debut album, Love Fell On Me, evokes a simpler time of love through innovative storytelling and breathtaking melodies interjected with up-tempo driving grooves that display Sheléa’s edgy side. You can hear Sheléa’s classic influences throughout her music, but she is not a throwback. On the contrary, she is pushing the musical envelope forward and bringing us back to true artistry. Shélea’s first single/video, “Seeing You,” exposed the world to her classic romantic side. Sheléa’s second single released in February 2013, “Love The Way You Love Me,” evokes shades of Whitney Houston. “Love The Way You Love Me” continues to get massive airplay on both national and international radio stations.

John Stoddart is an American R&B/Gospel singer-songwriter who grew up singing in church and began formal vocal training at age 13.  In 1993, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Piano and Voice from Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland. Stoddart has worked as a songwriter on many other artists’ albums and also on production and backing vocal levels. Stoddart sang backing vocals for “I Surrender” on Celine Dion‘s 2002 album A New Day Has Come.

Kevin Whalum – One would imagine, however, that Kevin is best known for his stellar work with Kirk on his brother’s gospel series entitled, Kirk Whalum, The Gospel According To Jazz, Chapters 1-4. Kevin now has three solo albums under his belt: the self-produced solo debut, Timetable (2002); the George Duke-produced, One Life To Love (2008); and the new self-produced, I Live For You (2016). Although Kevin eschews any effort to force him into a category or genre, he freely admits to defining himself as “primarily a jazz vocalist who just happens to be a Christian.” He exhorts, “I hope I never agree to be just one thing. A true artist never wants that.”