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March 1998

Brian Culbertson
Secrets
Bluemoon

Musically well-executed for an album of its type, Brian Culbertson's Secrets (Blue Moon/Atlantic 92775-2; 45:02) finds the talented pianist pigeonholing his gifts almost exclusively in the mid-tempo, background music branch of "smooth jazz." With feathery acoustic piano hooks and solos, Culbertson lends elegance to an essentially bombastic genre, waking up the disco keyboard and lumbering funk background of "On My Mind," and musing lightly to lend a shot of emotion to "You're the One." Although Secrets has its moments (like Gerald Albright's life-breathing solo hooks on the tinkly ballad "One More Day"), there isn't anything jump-out. The album's final track, "At the Backroom," lends a much-needed charge of soul and attitude to all the sincerity, as guest Jeff Golub, wailing on guitar, brings out Culbertson's trickier, more bluesy piano stylings. It would be gratifying to hear the immensely talented Culbertson explore more of these ragged edges before becoming completely ensconced in his smooth, middle-of-the-road work.

Originally published in March 1998
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