Inspired by the great R&B/jazz/pop artists of the 70s including EWF, Tower of Power, Chicago, and David Sanborn, Brian Culbertson began his lyrical adventure at the spry age of 8. Heralding from the musical mecca of Chicago combined with his undeniable raw talent and knack for composition, it was almost inevitable that Brian would achieve industry greatness—he has self-produced 16 solo albums, most of which have topped the Billboard Contemporary Jazz charts. Crossing genres between contemporary jazz, R&B, and funk, Brian’s newest album, FUNK!, infuses infectious base lines with captivating hooks sure to mesmerize his audience.
We recently sat down with the award-winning artist to get the inside scoop on his latest album and tour.
How would you define your musical style?
It’s a hybrid of jazz, R&B, and funk.
Your latest album, Funk!, comes out this month (congratulations by the way!). Tell us about it.
This record is truly a throw-back record—P-Funk meets Prince! So, very much a sing-a-long, funny, stanky, in your face record.
You’ve worked and performed with some industry all-stars. Who have you most enjoyed collaborating with?
Maurice White was an incredible experience. We spent 3 months together everyday in the studio while making Bringing Back The Funk. I learned so much about what was important, what needed to be in the mix and what didn’t. I’m dedicating this new Funk! record to both him and to Prince—two musical/funk icons that we lost this year.
What are you most looking forward to on this tour?
The party that we’re going to have every single night. This show is going to be unlike any show I’ve ever done. Lots of choreography, full lights show, audience participation, and so much more!
What do you most enjoy about performing at the Hyatt Summer Concert Series?
It’s the most laid back casual setting of the tour for sure. It’s like we’re in someone’s backyard almost.
You founded the Napa Valley Jazz Getaway back in 2012. We can’t think of anything better than a 5-day festival of wine, food, art, and music set in California’s famous wine region. Do you have any insider information you can share for the 2017 event?
All I can say is that it will be bigger and better in 2017, so get the good seats now while they’re still available.
Is there a certain person/place/thing that inspires you musically?
Lots of things inspire me, from life experiences to listening to other music, seeing other performers live, and scrolling through different keyboard sounds. It all mixes in my brain and then comes out when I’m sitting in the studio messing around.
You’re not afraid to push the fashion envelope.Where do you draw your style inspiration?
Yeah, I’ve definitely evolved and have been going bolder and bolder recently. I’ve always looked out for styles that are outside the U.S., especially London and Japan—they seem to be pushing the fashion scene with more funky, punk, and “vibey” styles than anything you can find in all the standard shops in the States. This tour, I’ll be wearing jackets made for me by a tailor in London named Sir Tom Baker. His stuff is crazy and he makes stage clothing for a lot of British rockers!
You’re on a desert island, which musical instrument do you bring?
I’d love to say my Roland keyboard because I’d have the piano sound, as well as hundreds of other sounds in there. However, there might not be any power … at that point, I’d say the acoustic piano because I just love the sound of it so much and I could play full songs with all the chords and melodies with no power needed. But then if it went out of tune, I’d be in trouble!! I guess I’d have to just have my trombone.
What’s next for Brian Culbertson?
I’m always looking forward so right now I’m working on setting up the Chicago Jazz Getaway for fall of ’17 as well as thinking of new music to start writing next summer. I think that will be very seductive, slow jam type record featuring the acoustic piano more. I’ve got a lot rolling around “upstairs” …
Catch Brian’s upcoming show this Friday at the Bank of the West Summer Concert Series at Hyatt Regency Newport Beach. Visit series.hyattconcerts.com for tickets today!