October 1, 2011. It was just another day in Southern California. The setting of the Winery at twilight was magical; the champagne flowed like rivers and that ultimate showman, Brian Culbertson, beckoned in the final month of the Thornton Winery 2011 Champagne Jazz Series in Temecula CA with a performance of the highest order. It has been quite a year for Culbertson whose 2010 CD ‘Xll’ proved to be an outstanding success and here he delved into it generously while recalling some old favorites along the way. In all of this he was helped in no small measure by Eddie Miller on vocals and additional keyboards, Gerey Johnson on guitar, bass-player Nathaniel Kearney, Jr., drummer Chris Miskel, Jim Culbertson on trumpet and Marqueal Jordan with both sax and vocals. Collectively they showed themselves to be what is arguably the best touring band around and right from the opening bars of the ultra catchy ‘Back In The Day’, the scene was set for a energy packed evening. As the hits kept coming, first with ‘Go’ and then with the dazzling ‘Always Remember’ it was clear that Culbertson was up, running and in blistering form.
Of course Jim Culbertson is Brian’s father and when he stepped up to play cool muted trumpet on a reworked version of the seminal ‘Come To Me’ it proved to be a highlight in a night packed full of them while just as good was Brian’s rendition of ‘That’s Life’ from ‘Xll’. An unexpected but delightful pleasure came in the form of another track from ‘Xll’, ‘Skies Wide Open’. On the album the stunning vocal to this superb cut is provided by Avant but here the honours went to Marqueal Jordan who nailed it and then some.
‘Let’s Get Started’ from the deeply seductive ‘Its On Tonight’ allowed Culbertson to invite guitarist Randy Jacobs (who had earlier opened the show with his own band) back to the stage for a funk filled duet with Gerey Johnson and, as the intensity was cranked up even further, Culbertson took over on drums as Chris Miskel led the way with the highly participative ‘Hollywood Swinging’ from the ‘Bringing Back The Funk’ CD. This Kool & the Gang blockbuster found huge favour with the increasingly animated crowd and as he stayed with ‘Bringing Back The Funk’ for ‘Funkin' Like My Father’ the result was just as good. Finally, as Culbertson was applauded back for a richly deserved encore, he notched down the tempo for a spine chilling take on ‘Our Love’. It served as a wonderful end to an incredible evening and left all those there still hungry for more.