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September 2003

Brian Culbertson
Come On Up
Warner Brothers

There's a vibrancy to popular smooth-jazz keyboardist Brian Culbertson's Come On Up (Warner Bros.). Each track on the album--even the slower numbers--is infused with energy and spirit. Culbertson establishes a party vibe with the intro, then swings into "Say What," a horn-soaked soul-jazz rouser propelled by Culbertson's funky piano, which is well complemented by Steve Cole's sax. On "Midnight," bassist Marcus Miller provides a spiky funk rhythm, which is overlaid by Culbertson's smooth piano, and Miller sets the funk groove on Culbertson's exuberant, horn-led take on Earth Wind & Fire's "Serpentine Fire." Two ballads, the nostalgic "Days Gone By" and the atmospheric "Last Night," which features dusky muted trumpet by Rick Braun, provide a stylistic change of pace. So does "Our Love," a tune Culbertson wrote for his wedding, which opens as a romantic ballad, morphs into a jazzy workout and returns to lush ballad mode. The title is inviting, and the album does not disappoint; Come On Up is a thoroughly enjoyable and fun-to-listen-to offering from one of smooth-jazz's brightest lights.

Originally published in September 2003
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