Instead of being on stage in Pittsburgh Friday night, one week into a planned 70+-date coast-to-coast concert tour set up to launch his milestone twentieth album release, the aptly titled “XX” (Roman numerals for twenty), R&B/jazz/funk multi-instrumentalist Brian Culbertson will be home, marking the occasion by hanging out with a glass of wine and entertaining fans via his popular Facebook Live broadcast “Friday Night Studio Hang” (8pm ET/5pm PT).
While The XX Tour that was to start April 1 with shows booked through June had to be pushed to 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, the new album’s retro-charged first single, “Get Up!” is already at No. 6 on the Billboard chart, easily within striking distance of becoming the hitmaker’s 33rd No. 1 single. Culbertson went all in on the 1980s vibes, even creating a “Get Up!” ringtone that is available for iPhones.
“This album was about creating lots of different moods, which is a little different for me in terms of what I’ve done over the last several albums that were more conceptual and consistent from beginning to end – either the romantic side of things, a funk album, straight-ahead jazz trio or what not. I deliberately set out to have no one genre or one style in mind; just give people a total mix of everything that I do – funky instrumentals, jazz, R&B slow jams, gospel, pop and straight-up funk” said Culbertson, who hopes the collection will uplift listeners during this unprecedented time of social distancing and economic uncertainty.
“The fact that it’s coming out during this time when everyone is under stay at home orders, I hope it does lift people up. That’s what music does. That’s the beauty of music. It makes you feel better. It takes you out of whatever place you’re in at the moment. It transports you. That’s why I love making music.”
Making music with Culbertson on “XX” is a prominent assortment of featured guests: Bootsy Collins, Ray Parker Jr., Avery* Sunshine, Maze’s Jubu Smith, Everette Harp, Marcus Anderson, DW3, Byron “Mr. Talkbox” Chambers, Noel Gourdin and Patches Stewart. Filling up the tracks is an accomplished array of musicians including Paul Jackson Jr., Nicholas Cole, Eric Marienthal, Ricky Peterson, Alex Al, Michael Thompson, Khari Parker, Lenny Castro, Gerey Johnson, Chance Howard, Ouiwey Collins, Candice Cheatham and Derek “D.O.A.” Allen. Vocalist Micaela Haley(aka Michelle Culbertson, Brian’s wife) and a gospel choir add celestial and soul luster to a couple tracks. In addition to playing piano, keyboards, Minimoog, Wurlitzer, Hammond B3 organ, Fender Rhodes, clavinet, bass, synth bass, drum programming, vocals, string machine and percussion, Culbertson picks up his trombone to form a powerhouse horn section with Marqueal Jordan and Michael Stever.
As always, Culbertson offers a mix that will satisfy any mood. Check out the smooth groove Time Flies.
The release of “XX” caps a remarkably prolific fourteen months for Culbertson, who released three very different albums and a Blu-Ray concert video during the span. Although he’s home unexpectedly for the time being, he’s far from idle as planning continues for the annual Napa Valley Jazz Getawayand Chicago Jazz Getaway music and lifestyle festivals that he founded and curates. In the meantime, Culbertson will continue “Friday Night Studio Hang,” which he began broadcasting several years ago on the rare occasion he didn’t have a concert to play that evening.
“It would be random that I’d actually be in the studio on a Friday night, but starting a few weeks ago, I’ve been going live every Friday night. Now that everyone is home, I’ve gotten more viewers and comments than ever before. I talk about recording techniques, songwriting and end up playing songs live along to TV (backing) tracks. I’m looking forward to celebrating my twentieth album release with fans Friday night.”