Brian Culbertson (born January 12, 1973) is a contemporary jazz/R&B/funk musician, instrumentalist, producer and performer from Decatur, Illinois, United States. His instruments include the keyboard, piano, trombone, drums, bass, trumpet, euphonium and percussion.
Early life and career
Brian Culbertson was born the first of two children in Decatur, Illinois to Jim and Carol Culbertson. As a child, he was musically skilled, having started playing piano at age 8, drums at 9, trombone at 10, bass in 7th grade, euphonium in high school and more. As a boy, he would also make his own "songs" with various equipment until he saved enough money for a 14" color monitor and Macintosh IIci. His mother had taken piano lessons so she contributed to Culbertson's playing.
Growing up, he listened to Sting, The Yellowjackets, George Duke, David Foster, Marcus Miller, David Sanborn, Chicago and Earth, Wind and Fire. He attended and graduated MacArthur High School, where his father was a music teacher. In a 2012 interview, Culbertson mentioned his grandfather was a civil engineer and his mother was a drafter so he initially began studying architecture but eventually gave up after finding the advanced math difficult.
He then moved to Chicago where he attended DePaul University. It was in college that he actually started working on a CD, gathering a group of musicians, recording a demo tape and sending it to the only person he knew in Los Angeles, Bud Harner, who would get him his first record deal.
He is married to Michelle Culbertson, also known by her stage name Micaela Haley, and they live in Los Angeles, CA. In an interview, Culbertson revealed that he met his wife in college and they were later formally introduced at his first concert in 1994. His wife contributed background vocals on his earlier albums and a feature vocal on his Christmas CD, A Soulful Christmas.
Although heavily influenced by funk, Culbertson also works with many other musicians in the R&B and jazz arena, often as a composer and arranger. Culbertson is credited with working with Maurice White, Bootsy Collins, Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild, Larry Graham, Avant, Faith Evans, Kenny Lattimore, Vivian Green, Stokley Williams from Mint Condition, Noel Gourdin, Brian McKnight, Ray Parker Jr., Boney James, Chris Botti, Earl Klugh, Dave Koz, Peter White, Richard Elliot, Jeff Lorber, Michael Lington and legendary A&M Records composer and producer Herb Alpert.
Culbertson plays Mason & Hamlin pianos and Roland keyboards and has appeared at the NAMM Show.
Culbertson has written and produced over 25 #1 contemporary smooth singles on the R&R, Gavin and Billboard Radio charts. Singles include "So Good" and "On My Mind" from Secrets, "Get It On" and "All About You" from Nice & Slow, "Hookin' Up" and "Let's Get Started" from It's On Tonight, "Always Remember" from Bringing Back The Funk, "That's Life" from XII, "Your Smile" from Dreams in addition to many more with other artists such as Norman Brown, Bob James, Dave Koz, Eric Marienthal, Rick Braun, Steve Cole, Eric Darius and Michael Lington.
In 2013, he announced on his blog that he was working on his fourteenth album, the album Another Long Night Out will be out on February 25, 2014. He states he will revisit his earlier roots in contemporary jazz.
Napa Valley Jazz Getaway
In late 2011, Culbertson announced he would be hosting the first annual Brian Culbertson Napa Valley Jazz Getaway at the Napa Valley Opera House on June 7–10, 2012. He thought of starting his own festival after vacationing in Napa Valley with his wife and enjoyed the scenery so much and realized that there were no jazz festivals. The 4-day concert event would include live performances by comedian Sinbad, vocalists Oleta Adams and Kenny Lattimore, as well as artists Eric Marienthal, Eric Darius, and David Benoit. In addition to performances, Culbertson curated the weekend's events to include food and wine events at his favorite Napa establishments including: Cindy Pawlcyn's Brassica restaurant, Miner Family Vineyards, Silver Oak Cellars, Caldwell-Snyder Art Gallery, and Silo's Napa.
The inaugural event was a commercial and critical success, selling out within a week of the public announcement of ticket sales. At the 2012 event, Culbertson announced that the event would return for a second year, held June 5–9, 2013. The expanded 5-day 2013 event was held at the Napa Valley Opera House and the Lincoln Theater in addition to several wineries and featured Norman Brown, Kirk Whalum, Rick Braun, Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, Take 6, Ray Parker Jr., Eric Darius, Nick Colionne, Michael Lington, DW3, Cecil Ramirez and returning special guest comedian Sinbad. Plans for the 3rd annual event are underway and scheduled to be held June 11–15, 2014.
Culbertson has received numerous awards including a 2012 NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Jazz Album; 2012 Soul Train Award nomination for Best Contemporary Jazz Artist; Winning Six (6) 2011 Oasis Smooth Jazz Awards for Best Entertainer, Best Album "XII", Best Song "That's Life", Best Keyboardist, Best Male Artist and Best Collaboration "w/Earl Klugh"; 2010 Canadian Smooth Jazz Award for Best International Artist; 2010 American Smooth Jazz Award for Best Keyboardist; 2005 ASYM All That Jazz Award; 2001 National Smooth Jazz Award for Best Keyboardist.
Brian has been touring steadily since the release of his first record in 1994 and has done well over 1,000 concerts around the world. In October 2013, he will once again host a smooth jazz cruise (he hosted the "Brian Culbertson All-Star Smooth Jazz Cruise" in January 2007) called The Smooth Jazz Cruise - West Coast Edition. This time, he will co-host the cruise with Boney James. The cruise sails out of San Diego Oct 12-19, 2013. Brian has toured with his band plus many others including Dave Koz on several summer and Christmas tours including a 2009 summer duet tour called "Side By Side", David Sanborn on a duet tour called "The DREAM Tour" in the summer of 2012, David Benoit on a piano duet tour called "piano2piano" in 2012 with more dates in 2013, four of his own "A Soulful Christmas" tours from 2006-2009 which featured guest artists Gerald Albright, Bobby Caldwell, Warren Hill, Eric Darius, Ray Parker Jr., Nick Colionne, Mike Phillips, Howard Hewett and Michael Lington. He has also toured with Michael McDonald, James Ingram, Norman Brown, Patti Austin, Chris Botti, Marc Antoine, Wayman Tisdale and others. For several years, Culbertson was a regular opening act and performed with Barry Manilow on his arena shows from 2008-2012. Culbertson has always featured saxophonists in the band starting with Steve Cole in the early days, Eric Marienthal here and there, Michael Lington from 2003-2006 and 2009, Eric Darius from 2006-2008 and currently Marqueal Jordan from 2009–present.