He may be one of smooth jazz’s biggest stars now, but 20 years ago, keyboardist/trombonist Brian Culbertson was a student and aspiring musician at Chicago’s DePaul University, recording demos for what would become his 1994 debut album, Long Night Out, in the bedroom of an apartment he shared with three roommates. Those demos earned Culbertson a record deal, and he subsequently built an enviable career as a popular and acclaimed performer, composer and producer. Culbertson’s marking the 20th anniversary of Long Night Out by revisiting it on Another Long Night Out, the first release on his own label, BCM Entertainment.
On the debut album, Culbertson played most of the instruments himself. This go-round he’s joined by a bevy of well-known guests, including guitarists Lee Ritenour, Chuck Loeb, Paul Jackson Jr., Steve Lukather and Russ Freeman, saxophonists Eric Marienthal, Candy Dulfer and Jeff Kashiwa, trumpeter Rick Braun and bassists Jimmy Haslip and Nathan East. But the biggest stars on the album are Culbertson’s solid compositions and gift for arrangement. He knows how to utilize each instrument to provide effective coloration to each tune.
Culbertson’s jazzy piano is countered by Loeb’s guitar on the horn-accented “Fullerton Ave.” Guitarist Michael Thompson’s delicate acoustic work at the opening of “Beautiful Liar” complements Culbertson’s stately piano, then Lukather delivers a soaring solo on electric guitar as the tune-featuring a string arrangement by pianist David Benoit-escalates into a dramatic power ballad.
There’s a real party spirit on “Long Night Out,” a rollicking jam driven by a horn section led by Dulfer and including Marienthal, Culbertson and trumpeter Michael “Patches” Stewart. Jonathan Butler’s wordless vocals provide atmosphere on the gentle ballad “Changing Tides,” which serves as a graceful, elegant way to wind down the celebration and close this chapter of Culbertson’s career.