If you’ve been to any of his shows in the past
couple of years, you just knew this one was bound to come out sooner
or later. Keyboardist/trombonist Brian Culbertson side-steps (literally)
the smooth jazz formula for a step back when funk ruled the airwaves,
and rhythm and blues were the flavor of the day. On board for the
ride as executive producer is the founding member of Earth, Wind
and Fire, Maurice White. His presence is felt on many of the tracks
here with both vocals and horns that made him so popular for years.
Right off the bat, the funk gets started with special guest Bootsy
Collins and a host of others in “Funkin’ Like My Father.” There’s
a hypnotic beat here that keeps this one moving along with a little
rap, and some cool bass riffs. The real surprise is the piano interlude
at the midpoint which blasts into an in-your-face trombone solo by
Culbertson. It continues along in party fashion, and sounds more
like a finale than an opener, but it sets the tone early for this
whole project. “Always Remember” is the first single,
and is a little toe tapper that is almost all Culbertson in his piano
glory. The catchy chorus has White’s influence as does the
horn riffs added for punch. The all-star cast of Ray Parker Jr.,
Greg Adams, Paul Jackson Jr., Eric Marienthal Tom Scott, Lenny Castro,
and Ricky Peterson set this one on its ear. I think you’ll
like this one. “Hollywood Swinging” is a remake from
the 70’s featuring saxophonist Gerald Albright and Musiq Soulchild.
The heavy bass line gives way to Brian’s keys. You’ll
be singing and dancing in just a few minutes as this one gets underway.
Tony Maiden’s guitar is a nice added touch throughout. Albright’s
solo soars at the three quarter mark and plays off of the rest of
the band for a resounding ending.
Culbertson slows the pace down with the chord laden “The House
of Music.” The approach has a gospel feel to it with a good
beat added by Larry Graham’s bass and additional sax work by
Ronnie Laws. Ray Parker Jr. comes in with some good vocals while
Culbertson takes this one on out with his trombone. He continues
that trombone into “You’ve Got To Funkifize.” Culbertson
is primarily known for his keyboard work, but he really lets his
trombone shine here, and probably his best to date. This mid tempo
funk takes off to full speed ahead about half way through with an
ending that would make James Brown smile. “The Groove” is
one of those syncopated piano songs that you’ve come to love
The funk picks up again with the lively “Excuse Me...What’s
Your Name?” The band is scaled down to Culbertson on trumpet/keyboards
and trombone while Parker joins him on guitar, drummer Chris Miskel,
and bassist Maurice Fitzgerald. It’s just a short interlude
that goes into “Voices Inside” featuring the guitar of
David Walker and vocals of Eddie Miller. Culbertson shines on the
piano here, and makes this one a real fun mix. You’ll be singing
along in no time at all. The closer is a more romantic song that
starts off with the acoustic piano of Culbertson. “Let’s
Stay In Tonight” begins to build with the White inspired vocals
and some very nice keyboards. By the halfway point this one has grown
in both mixture and intensity. This is a good one to go out on. I
won’t even tell you about the little surprise at the end.
The cover has a picture of Culbertson at a young age listening to
Earth, Wind and Fire through the head phones. Like so many of us,
he was inspired by the music he heard then, and has now paid homage
to a sound that has followed him ever since. The mix and sound quality
are really good. There are some tunes here that are outside the general
smooth jazz category, but then again enough to get you going too.
Read Brian’s “extra special thanks” on the liner
notes, and I think you’ll understand why he recorded this one.
This disc is a lot of fun, and should be listened to in that aspect.
Crank it up and have a good time with Brian and his friends.