Brian Culbertson - Funk! (2016)

Brian Culbertson
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Brian Culbertson – Funk!

Sonically, Brian Culbertson’s Funk! sounds like a record that could have been released in 1974 or 1977. So it’s retro. A big reason for that choice is that the pianist has long had an affinity for that era’s music, which often showed up in his work. His musical influences include Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago.

In an ironic way, though, Funk! is also a timely record. So, how can this project be both retro and timely? Well, that mid to late 1970s era was a time similar to the era in which we find ourselves. By, say, 1976, the nation had lived through 10 to 12 tumultuous years – various human and civil rights movements were either beginning or reaching their climax, Vietnam, assassinations, the sexual revolution, Watergate.

Brian Culbertson – Funk!

Sonically, Brian Culbertson’s Funk! sounds like a record that could have been released in 1974 or 1977. So it’s retro. A big reason for that choice is that the pianist has long had an affinity for that era’s music, which often showed up in his work. His musical influences include Tower of Power, Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago.

In an ironic way, though, Funk! is also a timely record. So, how can this project be both retro and timely? Well, that mid to late 1970s era was a time similar to the era in which we find ourselves. By, say, 1976, the nation had lived through 10 to 12 tumultuous years – various human and civil rights movements were either beginning or reaching their climax, Vietnam, assassinations, the sexual revolution, Watergate.

By the time Richard Nixon left the White House and the last chopper went wheels up in Saigon, Americans wanted to escape, and the music reflected that desire; and funk artists were a part of that movement. They, in many ways, provided the soundtrack. In that sense, it is not surprising that Culbertson chose to cover two of that era’s most infectious, fun and most loved cuts – Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music” and Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up.”

Culbertson does the former primarily as an instrumental that features a couple of New Orleans brass band pieces of improvisation toward the end and vocals added for the cut’s famous hook. “Got to Give It Up” features Marqueal Jordan’s vocals on this driving funk/rock version that features Culbertson’s piano work and ends with an all-out jam session, with the horns trading solos and with a Morris Day and the Time-styled chant.

The balance of Funk! is filled with originals, and features the percussive and driving mid-tempo bass work of Rodney Jones on bass on cuts like “Mile Sauce.” “Hey Girl,” one of two slow cuts on Funk!, dives deeply into the funk with a plucky bass line playing off Culbertson’s jazz inspired improvisation and brass inflections that seem suspended over everything.

“Take It Up” is a party anthem that exemplifies the mood that Culbertson and his band mates want to set on Funk! The mid-tempo number is a call to party that features a chanted hook and call and response appeals to have a good time, blaring horns and Culberton’s blues-infused piano work.

There have been a lot of necessary, important and timely music projects over the last few years because the times demanded it. But every now and then you want a time out. So at some point between the next crazy thing that Donald says, new Wikileaks revelations about Hillary and Wall Street, and the end of this election from hell, when you will decide that you’ve had it up to here and you just want an hour of your life to be a dance party, the time will be right for Funk! Recommeded.

By Howard Dukes

 
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