By Rob Nagy
Twenty years ago Brian Culbertson was a struggling musician attending Chicago’s DePaul University. Possessing the natural talent, creativity and passion for music, Culbertson embarked on a journey that has brought him commercial success and critical praise.
A seasoned musician, producer, performer and instrumentalist, Culbertson delves back in time to pay tribute to his 1994 debut album with the release of “Another Long Night Out.”
“The whole concept behind this particular album is a remake of my debut record that I did 20 years ago,” says Culbertson. “That first one, which was “Long Night Out,” was basically me almost by myself in my college apartment with hardly any money — just drum machines and keyboard, bass and synth piano. I always liked the songs, but the production was not the greatest. Over the years I’d listen to it and think about someday redoing it. I decided to wait for the right timing and now, for the 20th anniversary, seemed like the perfect time to do it.”
In the studio, Culbertson, a multi-talented instrumentalist (piano, trombone, bass, drums, trumpet), enlisted the services of elite fellow musicians. Featured on the eleven song album are Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb, Nathan East, Russ Freeman, Jonathan Butler, Candy Dulfer, Jimmy Haslip, Rick Braun, Eric Marienthal, Larry Dunn, Steve Lukather, Ricky Lawson and David Benoit
“I’ve gotten to know a lot of these people over the years, so I thought it would be really cool to redo that first record with these musicians who inspired me to make the first one,” said Culbertson. “Literally everyone that’s on the record I was listening to back then. I didn’t know them, but they were influencing me.”
Featuring a collection of eleven original Culbertson compositions, “Another Long Night Out” is his 14th album release and the first on his BCM Entertainment label. Debuting at Number 1 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Album chart, the hit single “Fullerton Ave.” is rapidly climbing Billboard’s Smooth Jazz Chart.
“The entire production of this album is far superior from what I had in my apartment,” added Culbertson. “So you couple that with the knowledge that I’ve learned over the years of producing, and the whole sound and the sonics of this new version are really nice. I’m very happy with the way it turned out.”
Culbertson is no stranger to success. Throughout his career he has written and produced twenty-six #1 singles, including “So Good,” “On My Mind,” “Get It On,” “All About You,” “Hookin’ Up,” “Let’s Get Started,” “Always Remember,” “That’s Life” and “Your Smile.”
In recent years, Culbertson was the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2012 NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album, a 2012 Soul Train Award nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Artist and six 2011 Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards for Best Entertainer, Best Album (“XII”), Best Song (“That’s Life”), Best Keyboardist, Best Male Artist and Best Collaboration (w/Earl Klugh). He received the 2010 Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Best International Artist, the 2010 American Smooth Jazz Award for Best Keyboardist, the 2005 ASYM All That Jazz Award and the 2001 National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Keyboardist.
Beyond his success as a solo artist, Culbertson has enjoyed recording and touring with Dave Koz, Rick Braun, Eric Marienthal, Steve Cole, Bobby Caldwell, David Sanborn, David Benoit and Barry Manilow.
This coming June, Culbertson will present his third annual “Napa Valley Jazz Getaway” music festival. With Culbertson headlining, this year’s line-up features appearances by Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, Take 6, Ray Parker, Jr., Eric Darius, Nick Colionne, Michael Lington, DW3, Cecil Ramirez and comedian Sinbad.
“I wanted to start a festival that wasn’t typical — where you come to a show and leave,” said Culbertson. “I wanted to create this whole immersive lifestyle event where it’s combining wine, food, music and comedy — a nice feel good family hang. “
A wine enthusiast, Culbertson is unveiling his own wine, a Pinot Noir blended in partnership with Reata Wines and Jamieson Ranch Vineyards.
Armed with a new album and a revamped band, Culbertson is looking forward to returning to this year’s Berks Jazz Fest.
“We just rehearsed a new show featuring some of the new tunes and reworking arrangements of older songs that people know,” said Culbertson. “I’m always cognizant of creating a show that has a nice ebb and flow, ups and downs and emotional moments, yet lots of party moments. When people come and see me, I’m always thinking about the entertainment value as well as the musical aspect of it and trying to keep people engaged, excited, having a good time and forgetting about life. That’s what we do.”
“I am very happy,” said Culbertson. “I have no complaints. I’m having a great time making music, touring and working with amazing musicians. What more can you ask for?”
IF YOU GO
The Boscov’s Berks Jazz Fest runs from March 28 to April 6. For a complete list of concerts, venues and ticket information, visit www.berksjazzfest.com. To stay up to date with Brian Culbertson go to www.brianculbertson.com.