Berks Jazz Fest 2013: Brian Culbertson

Saturday night, the much anticipated new show by Brian Culbertson was taking place, it was sold out. They started their current tour one week ago, so the new band was playing together not for very long. They entered the stage and hit us hard with some funk, playing some of his favorite in songs in quick succession. All that was left from his old band were drummer Chris Miskel and keyboardist Eddie Miller, everybody else was gone. New in were some young players, we got Maurice Ellis on bass and Adam Hawley on guitar, plus vocalists Selina Albright and Jason Morales. Brian Culbertson as usual was center stage with his keyboards, also playing his mean trombone. They were playing a few songs from the XII record, among them "It's Time", then things slowed down with some soulful trademark playing by Brian, creating magical moments. Despite all the nice vibes, I felt something to be missing, until it stuck me - there were no horn players! So getting used to a horn-less Brian Culbertson takes some time, the shift from a powerful horn section to vocalists will probably make some people feel uncomfortable at first. Nevertheless, especially Selina Albright was a great addition to the show, with her youthful energy and great vocals, she provided lots of joy and entertainment, while her fellow vocalist Jason Morales did a great job as well, especially on "Skies Wide Open" that featured him. They turned up the heat again with "You Got To Funkifize", then it was time for some solo piano with "Dreams", the tile cut of the CD of the same name, segueing into "Secret Garden", providing some sensuous playing of the highest order, having the audience cheer along. Next was his rendition of EWF's "Serpentine Fire" featuring his keyboards, followed by "Funk For My Fathers", before they wrapped up the show with another instrumental. Despite the new band needs some getting used to, the final impression was positive and the crowd seemed to have loved it. Brian Culbertson deserves credit for doing something new, take some chances and not play it safe by relying on the same old stuff.