About Kirk Whalum:
Soulful, passionate, stirring … these are the words most often used to describe Kirk’s music. Forged from his Memphis gospel roots and his 1980s initiation into the thriving Houston nightclub scene, Kirk’s big, rich tenor sound is unmistakably his.The 80s were highlighted by Kirk’s stepping out of his blossoming sideman role and forming his own band. It was there that Kirk ultimately developed both his “voice” and songwriting in the crucible of the local club scene — especially at a rooftop club called Cody’s. It was also in Houston where jazz pianist Bob James “discovered” him and brought him on tour, which led to five successful albums with Columbia Records, including Cache, Kirk’s first No. 1 album. Kirk and Bob also received a Grammy nomination for their collaboration album, Joined at the Hip.
After moving to Los Angeles, Kirk became an in-demand session player for top artists like Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau, Luther Vandross, Larry Carlton, Quincy Jones, and, most notably, Whitney Houston, amongst many others. It’s his sax heard on the mega-hit, “I Will Always Love You.” Kirk soon followed that career high point with his phenomenal hit album released on Warner Bros. Records, For You, perhaps the most successful of over 25 solo recordings to date. Others include his eclectic, and much-lauded, Gospel According to Jazz series, (Chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4). In addition to his many solo projects, Kirk was also a member of the popular soul/jazz group, BWB, which features Kirk as the “W” of the group with Rick Braun (trumpet) and Norman Brown (guitar).
About Bernie Williams:
Growing up in Puerto Rico, Bernie Williams discovered his love for baseball and music at roughly the same time, when at the age of eight he fell in love with the sounds of a flamenco guitar his merchant-marine father brought home from Spain, and also felt the same exhilaration when he first picked up a baseball bat. The young student-athlete quickly excelled in both pursuits, going on to attend the special performance arts school Escuela Libre de Musica at the age of thirteen and becoming one of the most noted young athletes on the island, both as a track and field standout posting record times in the 400 meters and one of Puerto Rico’s most sought after young baseball prospects. When Williams signed a contract with the New York Yankees at age 17, he brought his love of music with him – first to Albany for his development in AA and then on to the Bronx and the most famous field in sports when called up to join the Yankees in 1991.
In his 16 year career patrolling centerfield for the New York Yankees, Bernie Williams was a four-time World Series Champion and a five-time All Star. Williams has more post-season RBI’s to his credit than any other player in Major-league history and his resume also boasts four gold-glove awards, six American League pennants, the 1996 ALCS MVP award, and the 1998 American League batting title. Bernie is also among the Yankees all-time leaders in every major batting category, with his performance statistics often standing alongside such legends as Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio.
Throughout Williams’ years with The Yankees, his passion for music never waned, and the sound of a guitar would often be heard emanating from the clubhouse or during team flights. Whether acoustic or electric, a guitar was a constant presence in the star’s locker or equipment bag, and it was no surprise in 2003 when he demonstrated how serious his musical pursuit was with the release of his first album, The Journey Within. The record featured fusions of jazz, rock and the tropical rhythms of Williams’ heritage and was met with both strong critical praise and instant chart success- reaching #3 on Billboard’s “Contemporary Jazz Chart.”
Bernie Williams raised his musical game even further with the release of his second album Moving Forward. Featuring guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Jon Secada, Dave Koz, and an All-Star cast of renowned studio musicians, Moving Forward debuted as Billboard’s #2 Contemporary Jazz album in the country, and continued to hold that chart position for five straight, and spawned two consecutive Billboard #1 singles, Go For It, and Ritmo de Otono. The album was nominated for a Latin Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Album in 2009.
Bernie also co-authored a book in 2011 published by Hal Leonard Books titled, Rhythms of the Game: The Link Between Music and Athletic Performance. The book examines the symbiotic relationship between musical artistry and athletic performance through the eyes of a man who has mastered both.