Brian Culbertson

Another Long Night Out

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Some fans of contemporary jazz remember that Brian Culbertson's debut album, 1994's A Long Night Out, was actually a series of demos cut in his apartment. He played most instruments himself but had help from a small group of friends. On its 20th anniversary comes Another Long Night Out, a track-by-track re-recording of that initial offering, played by the artist surrounded by a studio dream team. It signals another debut of sorts -- the first release from his own BCM label. Each track here contains a featured soloist, but the bands he's assembled here are comprised of veteran, sometimes legendary talent. Opener "City Lights" features Lee Ritenour's guitar in the solo spot, but the rhythm guitarist is no less than Ray Parker, Jr. Interestingly, one can hear Culbertson quote from the refrain of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" in his piano solo. On "Fullerton Ave.," it's guitarist Chuck Loeb hitting the funky groove with assistance from bassist Jimmy Haslip and percussionist Lenny Castro, among others. "Heroes of the Dawn" features some elegant fl├╝gelhorn and valve trombone from Rick Braun, as well as a fine soprano sax solo from Eric Marienthal. The lead guitar player on "Beautiful Liar" is Steve Lukather, with bassist Nathan East driving the rhythm section. Russ Freeman takes the six-string chair on "Double Exposure," with solid saxophone work from Jeff Kashiwa. Longstanding compadre Michael "Patches" Stewart's trumpet is the guest solo on "Horizon," with Parker and Paul Jackson, Jr. exchanging spirited guitar interplay. Three tracks here, the lithe "Beyond the Frontier," the sprightly title cut (with Candy Dulfer featured on alto), and the tender closer "Changing Tides" (with Jonathan Butler's acoustic guitar and gorgeous wordless vocals) are textured by graceful yet dynamic charts written and arranged by David Benoit, and beautifully played by a 33-piece string orchestra with restraint. This re-imagined Another Long Night Out was a risky venture for obvious reasons. Yet it reveals more expansive harmonies, looser grooves, and more elegant textures. Culbertson's vision has matured over 20 years, but more surprising is how alluring these melodies were in the first place -- and just how timeless they remain even in a completely different setting.

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