Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Whalum received a music scholarship from Texas Southern University in Houston where he formed his own band, playing original compositions on the Texas club circuit. In 1996 he collaborated with Bob James on Warner Bros Records and released an album called Joined at the Hip which won Whalum his first Grammy nomination.
In 2000 Whalum released Hymns in the Garden which received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Instrumental album. Unconditional, another album released that year generated three Grammy nominations over two years for pop instrumental song (2001 and 2002) and pop instrumental album (2001). In the course of his career he has graced the recordings and stage performances of the preeminent vocalists, instrumental artists and soundtracks of our times, including the stunning sax solo on ‘I Will Always Love You,’ performed by Whitney Houston. Whalum has lent his lyrical phrasing and melodic artistry to musicians such as Babyface, Luther Vandross, Nancy Wilson, George Benson, Bebe and Cece Winans, Barbara Streisand, Vince Gill, Michael McDonald and Quincy Jones, among many others, with well over 100 recordings to his credits