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Bringing Back the Funk

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Album Review

In the 14 years since the Illinois-born and bred composer, producer, and keyboard whiz released his debut Long Night Out at the age of 21, he's evolved from a shy kid writing cheerful pop songs in a bedroom studio to one of contemporary jazz's most electrifying A-list performers. His fan base is large enough that he would have made a killing even had chosen to simply follow the easy grooving candlelit approach of his last non-holiday CD It's on Tonight with something similarly low-key and seductive. Fortunately for everyone who had been complaining that smooth jazz artists had been getting way too predictable in the latter 2000s, he had the pull and the wherewithal to make his dreams come true and seriously bring back the groove with just about every heavy hitting funkateer from the '70s. The cover shot of "little Culby" sitting and listening on headphones says it all — he was a tyke when his guest list was defining all that was cool and happening. The luminaries included one-time James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins and Phelps "Catfish" Collins plus members of the Rubber Band and the Horny Horns (all out of P-Funk); Larry Graham (the slap bass great of Sly & the Family Stone and his own Graham Central Station — no laid-back "One in a Million You" happening here!); Larry Dunn and Sheldon Reynolds (Earth, Wind & Fire); Greg Adams (Tower of Power), Tony Maiden and Bobby Watson (Rufus), Michael Bland, Cora Dunham, and Rhonda Smith (from Prince's bands), solo stars Ray Parker, Jr., David T. Walker, Ronnie Laws, Gerald Albright, Tom Scott, Paul Jackson, Jr., Perri, etc. Modern neo-soul was well represented as well, with Ledisi swaying dreamily through horn accents and multiple keyboard flavors on Bill Withers' lightly obscure gem "The World Keeps Going Around" and Musiq (Soulchild) slammin' it with urban sax god Gerald Albright, a sea of crunching horns and Culbertson's bright chordings on "Hollywood Swinging." Culbertson's choice of covers, which includes Candy Dulfer and Prince vocalist Chance Howard's urgent command from TOP that "You Got to Funkifize" (featuring Adams on trumpet), is inspired, but he also co-wrote a batch of gems that stand proudly alongside the classics. Reynolds and Collins are among the co-writers of the bright, brass splashed "Funkin' Like My Father" that comes across like an invitation to the party with a series of vocalists connecting past to present. The EWF-inspired Culbertson-Reynolds co-write "Always Remember" shows that no matter how crazy he gets with the production, Culbertson is still a joyfully melodic jazz keyboardist at heart. Other original highlights include the simmering gospel-blues number "The House of Music" (Graham and Laws are the billed stars, but Ricky Peterson's Hammond B-3 carries the soul), and the buoyant piano and horn section dance dubbed "The Groove" Parker (who cut his teeth on R&B sessions a decade before "Ghostbusters") chimes in on the percussive, two-minute interlude throw down "Excuse Me...What's Your Name?" which features Culbertson on the trombone, trumpet and Mini-Moog. An even more powerful party all night affair than Dulfer's magnificent Candy Store was the previous year, Bringing Back the Funk is Culbertson's masterwork that took contemporary urban jazz to a whole new level in 2008.

Biography

Born: 12 January 1973 in Decatur, IL

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Even though Brian Culbertson might be categorized as jazz lite, his music has enough "oomph" to keep you interested. The talented composer, arranger, keyboardist, and trombonist displayed a talent beyond his years at an early age, and credits his dad with helping him develop an ear for the type of music he makes. His father, Jim Culbertson, a respected high school jazz band director and trumpeter, cultivated a love of sanguine sounds in the young Brian, who eagerly listened to anything his dad put...
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Bringing Back the Funk, Brian Culbertson
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