Just as the summer's heating up, there's a steamy new release from GRP keyboardist Brian Culbertson. There are twelve new tracks that tinge on creating a special mood with that special person. Culbertson incorporates the talents of Will Downing, Boney James, Patti Austin, Kirk Whalum, Paul Jackson Jr., Eric Darius, and Chris Botti. Infectious riffs, multi-layered compositions as well as syncopated keyboard keep this one flowing from beginning to end.
“Let's Get Started” is an excellent way to begin the disc. It's an up-tempo number that will have you boppin' in no time at all. Brian's funky keyboards are heard throughout (along with his trumpet and trombone) while Tony Maiden adds a nice touch of guitar and current tour mate Eric Darius adds sax. His wife, Michelle, adds enough vocal flavor to spice things up a little. “Hookin' Up” begins with some excellent work from Culbertson that “hooks” the listener into a theme that follows through the whole song. The sound is clean and gives Brian the opportunity to show off some of the talents that have made him such a fan favorite over the past few years. You'll be humming this one long after it's over. “It's On Tonight” is the title track that features the vocals of Will Downing. Given that the vocals are the focus here, Culberston's keyboards stand out as a contrast with Downing. The two go together very nicely.
“Sensuality” is a laid-back Culbertson composition that moves along tickling both keyboard and bass line. He even adds a little horn work in on the chorus that frames the keyboard nicely. “The Way You Feel” features Boney James right off the start as they play along together before handing off to Culbertson's keyboards. This one has the same feel as the previous track and will certainly be added to the “slow dancing” rotation list. James' sax is sultry and plays into the keyboards with ease. “Forbidden Love” moves along with a nice bass line from Alex Al that serves as a nice background to some melodic, haunting keyboards from Brian. Both Paul Jackson Jr. and Tony Maiden are on board with guitar work.
I enjoyed “Dreaming of You” just because of how light it comes across with a beautiful melody line. Some of his inspiration was no doubt brought in from the violinist (his wife Michelle). “Secret Affair” continues the slower-paced work heard though most of the disc. The keyboards build on a nice line with Chris Botti's muted trumpet. Chris does some nice work here with featured solo work that adds light into this dark composition. “Love Will Never Let You Down” is the track you'll be hearing a lot of. Brian's keyboard leads the way for Patti Austin's vocals and Kirk Whalum's sax. This all-star cast also includes Paul Jackson Jr. again as well as Marcus Miller and Greg Phillinganes. There's a little bit here for everyone, and the theme keeps with the previous tracks. The disc closes with “Reflections.” It's strictly Culbertson here reflecting back on the rest of the disc or maybe even the past few. You can imagine him at the piano late at night as this one comes to a close.
Overall I think there's some good work here from Brian, while those who were looking for some funky riffs that his shows are famous for may differ. Put this one on with that special one beside you and see what you think.
- Harvey Cline