Chasing Music: Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum

When I was coming aboard this boat, I had every impression that this was going to be a very special show, and I was right.

Jeff’s sudden vision loss took everyone by surprise. It’s not something that happens every day, but it’s still a reminder that life, in its unpredictable and inimitable monkey-wrench-throwing glory, can still take someone for a loop. And consider that so many of us who can see, whether with glasses, contact lenses, or neither of the prior, never once stop to think, “What if that’s gone?”

Well, it happened to Jeff Golub, and his answer to that question is, “So damn what, I’ll still play guitar!”

And you know, for a jazz series, this boat had a whole lot of blues. Old-school, gritty, growling-guitar blues.

If you didn’t know, Jeff’s latest release, The Three Kings, pays tribute to Freddie, Albert, and BB King. All blues guitarists, all of them Jeff’s major influences, and eyesight or not, Jeff wasted no time in bringing his blues on. Henry Butler and John Stoddart, both stellar artists in their own rights, lent their voices to Let the Good Times Roll, and the audience joined right in. Nothing like rousing blues to get the blood flowing! I was exhausted through most of the week, but give me that dose of blues, and it did what six cups of tea and coffee (not each) didn’t do all day.

But, like all double features go, Kirk Whalum added his own Southern spice to the show. Salsa dancing, Memphis soul, Gospel-inspired – what can this veteran of music not do is the real question here. He commandeered the stage and everyone on it with a plain, no-nonsense charm, his tenor horn as straightforward and easygoing as he is. And, of course, what’s a Kirk Whalum show without Do You Feel Me? Easily my favorite cut off the Into My Soul album, and always a pleasure to hear it live.

Jeff Golub. What can I say, really? From Goin’ On to Every Day I Have The Blues, he renewed my love of the guitar and grit, like he does pretty much every time he plays. He still cracked every joke that he could manage, even using his own blindness as a base, and went at the music with his usual gusto.

I will say it again, like I quoted on the Smooth Jazz New York Facebook page: Jeff is living proof of the saying, “Mind over matter.” Yes, he lost his eyesight. It is an incredibly jarring adjustment to make. And if this show is any indication, this is an adjustment that he is ready to tackle, and he could not have a better support team than his family and friends. His sons took over as assistants: Chris helped Jeff with everything from finding the stage to getting his amp set up properly, and Matthew took care of Henry Butler, who also happens to be blind. Everyone in the band kept an eye on Jeff and Henry as they played; when Jeff was having trouble finding something on his amp, either Josh Dion (drums) or Kirk would help him out with what he needed. The support system for these guys is honestly incredible. True, it’s still a very difficult adjustment to make for Jeff, but he is honestly amazing in the way that he is tackling this. He is still able to go out and rock the boat, and could not have a better support system as he gets into his new groove, so to speak.

ETA: There may be hope for Jeff seeing again. Two specialists are testing him for a procedure that may restore his vision, if only in part, but – like all things health-related – this is not a cheap process. If you’d like to donate towards the cost of Jeff Golub’s medical expenses, please go to this link: http://bit.ly/oySiqW

And needless to say, please donate. This may help a fantastic individual to see again.

K.G.

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3 thoughts on “Chasing Music: Jeff Golub and Kirk Whalum

  1. THANK YOU for this synopsis of two of my favorite musicians, especially your experience with Jeff. Jeff is one bad-ass guitar player, and I’ve known this for a while. When you related to Jeff’s two sons helping out, I wanted to tear up, but it shows the strength and resilience of Jeff and his family, so I shall remain strong, too. I am so happy that Jeff is still doing his thing, and will continue to for years to come. I cannot WAIT to see him live again!

    Lory

    1. I’ll admit, I got a little choked up watching the boys taking care of the adults. It’s just something to see, you know? Here’s someone who just got one of the most unexpected monkey wrenches thrown into the mix, and he’s taken the attitude of, “OK, now what? Let’s work around this.” And that’s what so great about this show particularly. He took “mind over matter” and made it his mantra on a whole new level.

      Wait till you see him live, seriously. His spirit is something to behold.

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