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Braun, Whalum and Brown honor Michael Jackson with "Human Nature"

Ray Robinson | 7/18/2013, 6:24 a.m. | Updated on 7/24/2013, 9:38 a.m.

Braun, Whalum and Brown honor Michael Jackson with “Human Nature”

By RAY ROBINSON

Staff Writer

I recently caught up with jazz saxophonist, Kirk Whalum, a few hours before he was to perform at the Kingsgate Marriott Hotel and Conference Center at the University of Cincinnati.

I wasn’t interested in the Grammy award winner’s past accolades and accomplishments. I already knew that he got his start when pianist Bob James saw him at a local club and invited Whalum to join him on his next project. We all knew that he toured with Miss Whitney Houston for over seven years and played the sax solo on her smash hit, “I Will Always Love You.” I didn’t even want to talk about his work on a number of soundtracks including, “Boyz in the Hood,” “Prince of Tides,” “The Bodyguard,” “Grand Canyon” and “Cousins.”

No, I was only interested in Whalum's latest effort, due to be released just four days after our lighthearted conversation. Luckily, he was still floating on a cloud, and more than willing to give me all of the fast facts that make the album one to listen out for.

The album, Human Nature, is a musical tribute to Michael Jackson and his outstanding catalogue of chartbusters. It is the second effort by Whalum, guitarist Norman Brown and trumpeteer supreme, Rick Braun. The tight trio record under the name BWB for Braun, Whalum, Brown.

The first release was recorded more than 10 years ago, and had audiences worldwide waiting on the edge of their seats, wondering and wishing and wanting more of the joyful, juicy jazz from the band. "We never thought that it would take us this long to get back together again. But, you know how this business is. You end up at different parts of the globe, you get really busy writing and performing and before you know it...bam. 10 short years have passed by," he explains, of the long absence.

"The "Human Nature" project is the brainchild of Braun, who is an admitted Michael Jackson fan. Michael and I were the same age, so I grew up listening to all of the Jackson 5 songs, and then when he became the superstar that he did as an adult, it was hard not to recognize that he was something special. So, it is only natural that we did this tribute to him. Both Norman and I were excited when [Braun] first approached us about doing it," he spouted.

Unlike many recordings done today, where artist are in different cities while recording their individual parts, this trio came together in the studio and the results are a splash of soulful, sexy renditions of some of Jackson's most popular tunes ever recorded.

The songs on the album reflect the many seasons in Jackson's storied career. One has to wonder if the release date of the CD and the date of Michael's death are coincidental. Michael died on June 25 and the CD was released on June 18.

"We took this album very seriously, it was a great experience and I think that it shows in the finished product. I really like it. And when you come out to our shows you will be pleased and will definitely be entertained," the saxophonist beams.