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.
The story of how the then 20-year-old Brian Culbertson recorded a series of demos in his bedroom studio within a crowded apartment that he shared with three room mates has become legendary in the annals of smooth jazz. Those demos became his 1994 debut album, Long Night Out and now, twenty years later, this award-winning recording artist, songwriter and producer has revisited that first collection of songs for his latest release Another Long Night Out. Not only that, given how Culbertson's music has, of late, been influenced heavily by R & B and funk in a way that has positioned him firmly on the urban end of the contemporary jazz spectrum, Another Long Night Out marks a return to the rhythm and melody with which he originally made his name.
The project is also notable for the 'A-List' of talent that Culbertson has gathered together to support him in the venture. Russ Freeman, Eric Marienthal, Paul Jackson Jr., Nathan East, Jimmy Haslip, Ricky Lawson, Michael Thompson, Lenny Castro, Alex Al, Patches Stewart and Candy Dulfer are all variously around to lend a hand and it's Dulfer on alto sax who features on the rhythmically supercharged and brass enriched title cut.
Culbertson treads a tenderer trail with the spellbinding 'Beyond The Frontier' and he keeps it mellow for 'Alone With You' that, in every respect, is beauty personified. In similar vein is the enchanting 'Twilight' that is enriched in no small measure by Eric Marienthal on sax and stands as a fine example of classic smooth jazz from the era when the genre was really finding its feet.
Marienthal is also prominent with the hugely atmospheric 'Heroes of the Dawn' for which Rick Braun on trumpet also plays a part and when trumpet duties pass to the highly regarded Patches Stewart the result is the fabulous 'Horizon' where Culbertson's easy grooving work on keys bestows a quality that is wonderfully streetwise.
'Beautiful Liar', complete with a luscious string arrangement from David Benoit, also includes highly charged guitar from Toto's Steve Lukather and as Culbertson gets back onto a more rhythmic path the mid-tempo 'Double Exposure' shimmers with sax from Jeff Kashiwa and guitar from Russ Freeman.
Culbertson even makes time to slip in the bonus track 'Changing Tides' which finds him in superbly reflective mood while in terms of personal favorites it is the album's first two tunes that get the nod.
First up, 'City Lights' (again featuring Freeman on guitar) is quite simply Culbertson at his breathtakingly melodic best yet just as good is 'Fullerton Ave'. Taking its name from the street where, for Culbertson, it all began, this horn driven gem has Chuck Loeb taking the honors on guitar and is a certainty to make it into my top twenty for 2014.
Do you have any comments on what you have found in this edition of the Secret Garden? If so please e-mail me on DenisPoole2000@Yahoo.com.