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Whitney Houston’s sax man and Monica Pearson partner for charity

AP

AP

Whitney Houston’s longtime saxophonist, Kirk Whalum, and Monica Pearson, longtime Channel 2 anchor, team up for charity Saturday night.

Whalum will perform and Pearson emcees at Travel In Pink, benefiting the Grady Health Foundation. The event, presented by Delta, with Grey Goose Cherry Noir serving as the official liquor sponsor, will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Delta Air Transport Heritage Museum, Hangar 2, 1060 Delta Blvd. Individual tickets start at $150 and you must purchase in advance. Click here for details.

“I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Whalum, an 11-time Grammy-nominated saxophonist whose latest album is “Romance Language,” in honor of his wife of 32 years.

He was also to share stories of his working relationship with Houston, who died this year at age 48.

383623_10150413202914597_2129292215_n“I toured with her for seven years,” Whalum said. “I think those were her best years. She knew we had her back. It was a lot more than just, we worked for her. We were a family. When you’re on the road, you are by default a family. You’re out there and you really develop a long-term relationship.”

Whalum and Houston connected spiritually as well as professionally.

“I used to do Bible studies for her and the band,” he said. “She called me ‘Bishop.’ It was my mission to keep me connected.”

His most famous saxophone solo on Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You,” has been heard countless times, especially shortly after her death. At her insistence, the song was performed live for the movie “The Bodyguard.”

“When she did the song she was very specific, she said she wanted to do the song live for the film,” Whalum recalled. “That was a big no-no. They do those scenes a million times and with a singer, you have to watch her vocal chords.They said, ‘no we can’t do it.’ She said, ‘then you’re going to have to find a singer.’ She said, ‘if I sing it we’re going to have to do it live for the film and my band is going to play.’ Sure enough we were able to do it. The rough mix of that song is what made the record.”

430025_10151107282299597_1562380744_nWhalum was introduced to Houston through a colleague, and described his time with her as a “detour” from his recording career. He was sad, but not shocked, to hear of his friend’s passing.

“It was a mixture of incredulity and ‘I’m not surprised,’” he said. After playing with her on so many occasions it was heartbreaking to play for Houston one final time, at her memorial service. Hearing the song “I Will Always Love You” took on a tragic new meaning, he said.

“I’m connecting with this song on a different level,” he said. “Spiritually speaking it’s a horizontal love scenario. Vertically I look at it spiritually, like God saying, ‘I love you more than any other human.’ This whole message was a completely different meaning. It was indescribably difficult.”

He looks back on his time with Houston with gladness, though.

“It was such a blessing to back up a world-class artist,” he said. “It paid a lot of money of course. It was a great opportunity. We traveled all over the world. She was great.”

10 comments Add your comment

Lil Birdie

October 17th, 2012
9:35 am

I was about to say… Kirk has had an incredible career of his own, but that’s state in the body. “Kirk Whalum and Monica Pearson partner for charity” would have sold the story just as well.

Beat up for My Lunch Money

October 17th, 2012
12:39 pm

Your love affair for Whitney is never ending. It\’s more of an obsession really.

Angela Hirsch

October 17th, 2012
1:48 pm

Yes, she was every bit of every woman she was special in the eyes of God and most of all she did’nt have a problem letting the world know who her God the Father and Jesus christ and the Holy Spirit was to her. When I began to read what her sax man had said about her it touched my heart deeply because Whitney was just who she was and no more. My only regret is I wished I could have met the lady with the voice that God had Blessed with. I’m a christain and I to love the Lord with my whole heart and when Whitney sang you heard the love of God each time she sang and I will always love you and this I know you will always be in my heart my sister in the Lord. What was funny about this when they said her Birth was on August 9, 1963 my Birth was on July 9,1963 and it was sought of strange actually because I began to know in my heart that Whitney and I were also sisters in the spirit and I began to hurt like she was my blood sister and it felt good to know that you can connect in such a Godly way. I didn’t mean to get off of the topic I was just having a spiritual moment in time. Your story touched my heart in so many ways that I can not explain in words ,but when I heard you Kirk play that sax I said what a mighty gift from God for those of us only wish we had that remarkable talent personally I love ,love songs and Whitney sang them from her soul how can you not love her.

ziza

October 17th, 2012
1:49 pm

I am in absolute agreement with Lil Birdie. Kirk Whalum is an extremely well-known artist in his own right. To relegate him to “Whitney Houston’s Sax Man” is actually an insult. One I’m sure that was not meant. But is.

[...] In other Houston news, Whitney’s longtime saxophonist, Kirk Whalum, whose famous solo can be heard on her version of “I Will Always Love You,” will be in Atlanta this weekend, to perform at a charity event on Saturday night. Details here. [...]

Jaquita

October 17th, 2012
2:13 pm

Oh praise Jesus! I miss Ms Pearson so much. It just not the same witout her on the news. I hope she sing at this to. She truly God leading lady and have a bless voice that God given her.

Ursula

October 17th, 2012
2:42 pm

I was just listening to Whitney…I Love the Lord…you could hear the connection with GOD when she sing…make me shake!

Melissa Houston

October 17th, 2012
3:30 pm

One thing I learned from knowing Whitney Houston for over 25 yrs is that she was always a perfectionist at work..When Nippy & I were working she was an Excellent Producer Director even before she was actually given those titles.

Coochie Kente

October 17th, 2012
3:33 pm

Oh sh!t on Jesus! Halleloo! Kirk could blow my little house day any day of the week. Ms. Monica betta book a room at the Motel Six, and get busy getting up on that d—!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]