Brian Culbertson XII

Welcome to the latest issue of Denis Poole�s Secret Garden, the page that offers a personal perspective on the very best from the world of smooth jazz and classic soul. Ever since 1994, and the advent of his debut CD Long Night Out, Brian Culbertson has stood out as the master of R & B tinged smooth jazz. His discography is faultless and has now been further enhanced by the release of his twelfth solo album, the aptly titled XII. Out on GRP Records, this landmark collection offers up twelve original Culbertson compositions and, with a star studded line-up of guest performers, is among the best contemporary jazz recordings of the year so far.

The first single to be slated for Urban AC radio is the edgy ballad �Skies Wide Open� that features stand-out vocals from Avant. It is one of three tracks co-produced by Rex Rideout and another is �Don't U Know Me By Now� that is brought to stunning life by the earthy vocals of Faith Evans. She is also around for the high octane party tune �Feelin' It� for which the horn section of Greg Boyer, Bryan Mills and Brad Clements is to die for. This ultra funky number is further enhanced by input on vocals and guitar from Chuck Brown who is regarded by many as the pioneer of Washington DC �Go-Go� music and when Culbertson teams with Brian McKnight for the sensational steppers cut �Out On The Floor� the result is pure magic.

Of course no Brian Culbertson album would be complete without a smattering of the ultra catchy instrumental tracks with which he made his name. XII is no exception as first for �Stay Wit It� and again with the zesty �It�s Time� he delivers luscious slices of what might be described as �classic Culbertson�. This latter tune was written in collaboration with Sheldon Reynolds of Earth Wind & Fire fame and when later they again combine for the mellow �Forever� Culbertson calls upon the legendary Ray Parker Jr. to lend a hand. Parker also features on the distinctly sexy �I Wanna Love You� that evokes memories of the sultry mood so memorably created by Culbertson�s 2005 project It's On Tonight and as he keeps the tempo relaxed for �Waiting For You� the outcome is a velvety, understated gem.

Already making an impact on the chart of most played on smooth jazz radio is the feel good groove of �That's Life� that finds Culbertson in delightful partnership with the wonderful Earl Klugh while elsewhere spoken word starlet Natalie Stewart (of Floetry fame) sprinkles her unique talents all over �I Don't Know�. The addition of a compelling beat and great keys from Culbertson makes this one of the CD�s best cuts but right up there with it, and a real Secret Garden favorite, is �Another Love�. With a thumping old school vibe, and silkily soulful vocals from the always excellent Kenny Lattimore, smooth R & B doesn�t get better than this.

XII is out now and comes highly recommended.

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