Picks and Pans Review: The Promise

updated 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/04/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kirk Whalum

It's a blessed wind that blows everyone good. And the sweet zephyr emanating from Whalum's sax is such a godsend.

Whalum's third album of fusion jazz, produced with admirable clarity and flair by Bob James, is the prettiest and gutsiest sax album since Grover Washington Jr.'s mid-'70s output. In fact the drop-dead, stops-on-a-dime funky crawl of Whalum's "N.E. Wind" is strongly reminiscent of Washington's Mister Magic phase.

No doubt about it: This Memphis-born horn player has a trenchant mouth. Even on the softer songs, he plays with fire and emotion. This is most apparent on the title track, which recalls the haunting theme of St. Elmo's Fire. Whalum also plays misty for you on the seductive "I Receive Your Love." Even those selections, though, can't touch the songs on which Whalum wails away at that old R&B bump-and-grind, rousers like "L.C.'s Back" (the title acknowledges guitarist Larry Carlton's presence) and "Out-a-Hand." The forecast for The Promise is blustery. Blow, man, blow. (Tappan Zee/ Columbia)

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