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A Soulful Christmas by Brian Culbertson

Good CD? Well, let's see. First, we get a majestic and rather pompous intro to the classic "Joy to the World," then.... wham! Enter the funkmeister, Brian Culbertson, with a novel funky and spiritual take on the tune. What can one say? This guy is as prolific as any in the business and climbs into the driver’s seat without solicitation to take over the navigational duties of his distinctive sound and quality. Simply put, an artist in total control.

This review may be a little late for the holiday season, but it’s timely nonetheless. We’ve all heard the tunes before, many as kids, of course, watching our parents socialize in the living room or rec room, sipping spiked eggnog and telling stories that have little to do with Christmas, all the while hoping you’ll get sleepy enough to stop trying to sneak downstairs to see what’s happening and why Santa is taking so long. What you haven’t heard (I’m guessing) is the amazing arranging job Culbertson does on this set of covers.

Just listen to "Jingle Bells" and honestly tell me you’ve heard a more engaging, jazzed-up, feel-good version! No, it doesn’t make you want to go caroling down your block in the snow. Instead, you want to host that oh-so-smooth party and boogie your way through the evening. He’s even got that Dean Martin/Frank Sinatra style of horns going in one part of the song. That’s just before he tears into his signature funkfest. Talk about style!

Culberston is joined here, as expected, by many smooth jazz giants, including the marvelous and legendary keyboard master Jeff Lorber; crackerjack saxman Warren Hill; the new, young sax sensation Eric Darius; the effervescent, household-name guitarist Peter White; the always-electrifying bassist extraordinaire Nathan East; multi-facteted vocalist/keyboardist and former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald (experience his soulful vocals on Culbertson’s own "All Through the Christmas Night"), and Culbertson’s golden-voiced better half, Michelle (check out "Some Children See Him").

It’s encouraging to see how devoted these guys are to consistently producing quality music time and again, not just resting on their laurels and expecting our blind patronage. They earn it over and over again. Great job, Brian. I’m sure I join many, many, many others in looking forward to enjoying your genius for years to come.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Brian Culbertson
  • CD Title: A Soulful Christmas
  • Genre: Holiday Jazz
  • Year Released: 2006
  • Record Label: Verve Music Group/GRP
  • Tracks: Intro - Joy to the World, Joy to the World, Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, The First Noel, All Through the Christmas Night, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Angels We Have Heard on High, Some Children See Him, Little Drummer Boy, This Christmas, Silent Night
  • Musicians: Brian Culbertson (piano, trombone, celeste, bells, muted trumpet) and a host of special guests, including Eric Darius (tenor saxophone), Warren Hill (alto saxophone), Michael McDonald (vocals), Peter White (acoustic guitar), Michelle Culbertson (vocals), Marc Nelson (vocals)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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