Brian Culbertson – an Interview – 2005
The man and his Music
by S.H. Watkins, Sr.
Brian Culbertson, child prodigy and son of famous jazz musician Jim Culbertson, has managed to climb to the upper echelon of today’s contemporary jazz ladder without losing touch with the world from which he came. His new CD It’s On Tonight is a set of 12 sensual tracks, all written or co-written by Culbertson. As he put it “this album has over 60 minutes of music to do one thing… get you in the mood.”
Although Brian’s previous releases have always featured a mix of styles, funky, R&B, up tempo and slow jams, THIS one is all about the mood music. “People always tell me that they like the sexier songs (on the CDs), trying to give me details about what a great effect a certain track had when they played it in a romantic situation with the girlfriend or wife… Whoa! Too much info (laughing).” Showing his musical breadth, Culbertson performs on piano, trumpet, trombone, keyboards, bass, synth bass, drum programming, percussion and even a little background vocals here. Joining him on the CD are sax men Boney James and Kirk Whalum, trumpeter Chris Botti and vocalists Will Downing, Ledesi and Patti Austin who Culbertson calls a “very funny lady. She comes into the studio and things lighten right up.”
As a student prodigy coming up in Illinois, Culbertson was both inspired and influenced by the Chicago music scene. “Funky music, man” is how he summed it up. “The Chicago hump… once you do the rounds with the musicians (in Chicago) you’ve had an opportunity to really hone your craft” Culbertson stated, adding that “a lot of great jazz musicians in N.Y and L.A. came from (Chicago).”
After writing and recording his very first album in the bedroom of his Chicago apartment, Culbertson has gone on to put out a string of seven CDs that feature his smooth style and knack for penning songs that people “relate to”. Now living in L.A. himself, Brian still plays regularly and with his band which includes his father Jim and one of today’s young musical prodigies Eric Darius.
It’s On Tonight is Brian’s first effort with his new record company, GRP. “I’m here because Bud Harner (Vice President of A&R, GRP/Verve) is here,” Brian states. “He and my father played in college jazz band together at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois . He’s like Uncle Bud’ to me. He actually got me my very first record deal. And ever since he left Mesa/Bluemoon to go to GRP, he’s been trying to get me over there.” Harner concurs, “Brian Culbertson is home! I’ve literally known Brian since he was born. I’ve watched him grow and listened to his experimentations with various styles of music over the years. Ultimately, this led to me signing him to his first deal at Mesa/Bluemoon, which segued to his association with Atlantic followed by Warner Bros. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to have Brian back where he should be with me at GRP/Verve.”
If It’s On Tonight is any indication of things to come, this new environment is only going to allow Brian Culbertson to raise the level of his game and continue to put out music that people feel, that people relate to.
For more on Brian and his music visit the web site at brianculbertson.com.